Latest HIV Testing Technology Can Diagnose Patients Earlier, Curb Disease Transmission

December 1st marks the 23rd annual observance of World AIDS Day, a global initiative to raise awareness of the risk posed by the HIV virus and to empower communities to combat this health threat.

An article released today (Tuesday) in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), highlights the fact that despite increasing numbers of individuals that have been tested for HIV, approximately 55% of U.S. adults age 18-64 have never been tested. This data accentuates the importance of adopting policies that encourage increased testing and ensure proper linkage to care once new cases are detected, both of which are fundamental pieces of President Obama’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy released earlier this year. 

However, as state and local public health programs work to implement these policies, let us not forget the importance of having and utilizing the latest in diagnostic testing technology to ensure early and accurate detection of HIV infection.

As described in a recent article in Medical Laboratory Observer, APHL and CDC have been actively involved in updating the HIV testing recommendations that were developed in 1989. In March, the partners convened the 2010 HIV Diagnostics Conference at which experts presented the latest data on HIV screening and diagnostic methods. A major outcome of the meeting was the proposal of a single laboratory algorithm for HIV testing that incorporates the latest HIV testing technology available in the United States. 

The proposed algorithm has the potential to detect HIV infection earlier in patients that are recently infected; identify patients infected with HIV-2, a less common strain of the disease; and decrease the turn-around-time for testing in the laboratory.  Data is currently being collected to further evaluate the performance of the proposed algorithm.  Ensuring that the latest technology is incorporated into US laboratory practice is vital to early diagnosis and decreased transmission of HIV in this country.

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