November 30th, 2010
12:36 PM ET

CDC: HIV testing on the rise

A record  number of adults were tested for HIV for the first time in 2009. Almost 83 million Americans, ages 18 to 64, reported being screened for HIV last year, an increase of more than 11 million people from 2006. The data are part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's December Vital Signs report.

Yet despite these numbers, 55 percent of all adults have never been tested for HIV. Worse, 28 percent of the population at high risk for HIV have never been tested for it. The CDC says one of every five adults living with HIV does not know that he or she is infected with the disease and could be infecting others.

"If you don't know your HIV status, you can't effectively protect yourself and your partners," says Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The timing of when a person tests positive for HIV has a significant impact on how successful the subsequent treatment will be. It takes roughly 10 years for HIV to progress to AIDS. Early treatment of HIV, before symptoms fully develop, can effectively prolong an individual's life an average of 39 years. Yet at least one in three Americans test positive for the disease when it's too late  to take full advantage of treatment; they get  AIDS within a year  from their original HIV diagnosis.

"HIV testing is the fundamental link between HIV care and prevention," says Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the HIV/AIDS Prevention Program at the CDC. "People cannot take treatment that prolongs their life a decade without knowing they're infected."

"37,000 people were diagnosed with AIDS in 2008... virtually every one of which could have been prevented," says Frieden.

The CDC recommended that HIV testing become a routine part of medical care for all adolescents and adults back in 2006. According to Frieden, the increase of 11 million more people being tested for the virus for the first time in 2009, compared with 2006, is a sign of modest progress. Yet testing is not routine for more than half of all Americans, as evidenced by the majority of American adults having never been tested or by those who were tested too late to benefit from treatment. To combat this, the CDC says it's working with public health agencies throughout the country to make testing more accessible. Doing so will not only combat future cases of HIV infection, the CDC says it will have a positive economic impact as well.

"The lifetime medical costs for a person with an HIV infection is $357,000," says Mermin. "But testing people earlier means it's more likely they are not going to transmit their infection to others and that prevents another $357,000 in costs, per infected person."

"HIV is costing lives, costing money, and is continuing to spread," says Frieden. "There needs to be much more progress to increase the number of people who are offered to take up voluntary HIV testing and are rapidly linked to care."

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. T.rex

    AIDS is just a clinical diagnosis based on Tcell count, not health status. Thus, its not accurate to conclude someone with 'AIDS' is worse off than someone on 'effective' medication. I know people with AIDS, who are healthier than the average person on the street.

    November 30, 2010 at 21:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • NaoOkami

      That's right, go ahead and tell everyone AIDS isn't a death sentence. The drugs keep you alive right? People like you sicken me, you say AIDS isn't that big of a deal. Kids go looking to get infected, because once they get it they don't have to worry anymore. It kills you moron, well not directly. It just weakens your immune system to the point where a cold will kill you. Better yet, did you know that the medication people take to keep on living while infected raises your cholesterol? That's right, even the medication can kill you.

      So before you open your stupid mouth and say that a life threatening disease "Isn't that bad" try using your brain. Next time spare the general public advice that is a safety risk. It's ridiculous that you would say that. I bet your AIDS infected friend isn't half as healthy as I am. Lets check their cholesterol shall we? Get back to me when they die of an AIDS medication induced heart attack. I bet I will still be walking around, healthy as ever. You stupid pi$$ blithering ape.

      November 30, 2010 at 22:44 | Report abuse |
    • Mary J

      They may be healthy until their liver fails from toxic drugs. Many people don't understand that these drugs are TOXIC. If some sort of infection doesn't kill you, the drugs will.

      November 30, 2010 at 23:30 | Report abuse |
    • Dear NaoOkami

      Dear NaoOkami; Before sounding off your anti HIV/AIDS mouth you may want to get some facts straight....AIDS occurs when your T cells are below 200. AIDS does not weaken your immune system, the HIV virus does. You have no idea what your talking about which makes your ignorant comments more laughable and less respected in my mind. What was said is that AIDS is not a death ssentence and this is true. I am someone that has lived with HIV (not AIDS) for more than 20 years and I am in much better shape than many colleagues around me. They are obese, have diabetis, smoke and the list goes on and on. I never read that T Rex said AIDS is no big deal...he/she said that they know people with AIDS who are in better shape than the average person on the street and based on the obesity rate and diabetis rate in the fat old USA I would have to agree. In general people who have HIV take better care of themselves because they care about their health. It is the people such as yourself who are uneducated about HIV that facilitate more ignorance about HIV. Actually I have better cholesterol than most people especially most fat americans! You really need to get your facts straight....Don't believe everything you read about HIV, especially coming from ignorant people such as yourself. Get a life....

      December 1, 2010 at 13:15 | Report abuse |
    • Questions

      The interesting part is that no one questions the CDC about whether or not HIV actually causes AIDS. HIV is a virus. Did you know that there is only one or two known pictures of the HIV virus. When you get tested for HIV, try asking the person administering the test exactly what it tests for (besides the virus), chances are they don't know. How accurate is the testing? Funny how HIV and AIDS became an epidemic when the CDC was in danger of being disbanded as an organization. If you have tested positive, try getting a second test, or better yet try alternative research.

      December 1, 2010 at 15:50 | Report abuse |
  2. Korreon

    Haha... I dont want AIDS.

    December 1, 2010 at 09:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Greg

    You reap what you sow. No sympathy here.

    December 1, 2010 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Fleg

    You reap what you sow. No sympathy here.

    December 1, 2010 at 14:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. kristen

    AIDS is an immunodeficiency syndrome. There are other factors that may lead to autoimmune disorders, or deficiencies in immunity. But to ask "whether or not" HIV leads to AIDS is extremely uninformed and disrespectful to both those suffering and dying of the disease and those who sacrificed much to find this link. In particular, Questions, you say that it is,"Funny how HIV and AIDS became an epidemic when the CDC was in danger of being disbanded as an organization." In reality, these researchers had to fight for funding and to get anyone to listen to them because HIV emerged during the Reagan era, when the ever-effective "abstinence only" propaganda was in full swing. Of all the things to get funding, a syndrome (at the time) found primarily among young gay men was not favored. What you appear to be suggesting, that the HIV-AIDS link was fabricated by the CDC, is insane. Especially since those working in the (at the time, named) Venereal Disease sector, headed by Dr. James Curran, had to fight OTHER PEOPLE in the CDC to have their voices heard and to get any sort of money at all to do the necessary research. Former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, made this same claim and denied that HIV leads to AIDS, at the cost of countless lives of people living in South Africa who have suffered and died from this devastating pandemic.

    An HIV test is typically an antibody test, which tests for the antibodies to the virus. It takes 3-6 months, on average, to seroconvert, so you need to make sure you test long enough after the incident in which you may have contracted the virus. I worked in an HIV clinic in South Africa, and have spent some time in clinics in the US, and I can tell you that every nurse and healthworker there knew exactly what the test was for, at least on a general level. Of course, this may not always be the case, but you can easily look up HIV testing online and read all about it. You can even call the CDC hotline and talk to someone there until you heart's content about what these tests do. There are also other tests which more directly test for the virus itself, but those tend to be administered after the antibody test is positive or unclear. You should always get a second test after the initial antibody test, any doctor would tell you that.

    And to say that these people "reap what they sow" or that they are getting what is coming to them, is some of the worst commentary I have ever read. To impose some type of moral judgment on the people who are suffering and dying of this devastating disease lacks compassion and is completely irrelevant and off-base. And it only contributes to the intense social stigma associated with HIV, which is directly the result of people making ignorant, moralizing judgments such as what you state here.

    The level of ignorance, apathy, and completely misplaced moral judgment is part of why over 30 million people around the world now have HIV. It doesn't take a long time to educate yourself about HIV, and it is incomprehensible to me why many Americans, who enjoy so many privileges and luxuries that many others do not, can't take fifteen minutes to read a CDC or WHO fact sheet. Yet they can find the time to promote ignorance and hate for fellow humans who are dying as a result of a preventable disease, deaths which we can prevent.

    December 3, 2010 at 10:59 | Report abuse | Reply
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