As World AIDS Day approaches, a government panel is aiming to make HIV testing a routine part of a doctor's visit for most Americans.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued its draft guidelines last week. If those recommendations become final, they could require insurance companies to cover HIV testing for everyone between 13 and 64. Currently, HIV tests are typically only given to those in "high-risk" populations, Reuters reports.
Like other screenings, patients would be free to decline the test. But whether or not you choose the screening, its availability is part of something bigger.
As part of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are required to cover preventative care that is recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, reports Reuters. That means their recommendations have a big impact.
The Task Force is an administrative agency, and it works like other similar organizations.
When an agency like the Task Force or the FDA wants to adopt new industry guidelines, it first issues a proposal.
The proposed guidelines are made available to the public and there is a comment period that is open for a set period of time. Comments about the Task Force's proposed recommendations, including routine HIV screening, are being accepted through Dec. 17.
The Task Force recommendations would bring U.S. policy more in line with the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC has pushed for universal HIV screening since 2006, according to Time.
Universal screening makes early prevention and treatment more effective since it's easier to identify people with HIV. It would hopefully decrease the number of people living with HIV who don't know it yet.
Currently, nearly one in five people have HIV without knowing it. That means they could also spread the disease without realizing it.
Routine screening would also decrease the stigma on HIV testing.
When a doctor recommends a screening now, it's a statement that the patient is considered at risk for the disease. High-risk patients include young people who have unprotected sex, gay and bisexual men, and intravenous drug users, according to Time.
If the screening was made routine, it would no longer be a statement about who is at risk. Instead it would just be another means of preventative medicine.
Following the public comment period, the Task Force will consider which guidelines will be made final. The recommendations are expected to be released sometime next year.