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Federal Task Force To Decide Whether HIV Tests Should Be Routine

Aired 8/23/12 on KPBS News.

Should HIV tests be as common as cholesterol checks? A federal task force is expected to weigh in.

— The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is considering whether to recommend HIV testing be a routine part of medical exams. Their decision could have a major impact on the HIV epidemic.

Doctors in California are not required to get written consent to screen someone for HIV. Even so, HIV testing is not as routine as cholesterol and blood pressure checks.

UC San Diego HIV specialist Davey Smith believes it should be. He said about in one five people who have the disease don't know it.

"You can't be treated for HIV until you know that you have HIV," Dr. Smith explained. "And we know that HIV treatment is one of the best ways to actually keep it from being spread."

California insurers are already required to pay for HIV tests. If the federal task force recommends such tests be a standard part of care, all insurers nationwide must cover them by 2014.

The average cost of an HIV test is around $20.

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