Routine HIV Testing?

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Knoxville (WVLT) - For decades, the CDC has recommended intravenous drug users and gay men be routinely tested for HIV. Now, officials say you should be, as well.

The CDC wants HIV testing to become as common as a cholesterol check.

Officials say new guidelines could help end the stigma and lead to necessary care for people who don't yet know they have the disease.

They're recommending all Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 be routinely tested... To help catch infections earlier and stop the spread of the deadly virus.

"And to have a test at least once. If you're at high risk, at least once a year. They're just encouraging providers to do this on a routine basis," says Gary Messer, disease intervention specialist.

According to the CDC, approximately one million people in the US are HIV positive, but of those, 250,000 don't even know they are positive.

Knox County Disease Intervention Specialist Gary Messer says the Health Department performs about 25 HIV tests a day.

"We probably get one positive patient every three months. It's a challenge to go in and tell someone they're truly infected. We try to encourage them what we could do here, as far as our services."

The new guidelines are an attempt to identify HIV positive people earlier, begin life-extending therapy and stop transmission of the infection to others.

In Knox County, learning your status is free and completely confidential.

"They basically come in, they don't have to have an appointment, just sign in. The procedure takes approximately 20 minutes to have their blood drawn. We will do the pre-test counseling and then tell them we'll see them in approximately two weeks for test results," says Messer.

At your doctor's office, HIV testing could become part of the standard battery of tests during a routine physical, or when you go for urgent or emergency care.

The recommendations aren't legally binding.

You are allowed to decline the testing.

Some physicians groups say the recommendations will be challenging to implement, costing the patient money and time for testing.

And requiring more of the doctor's time for counseling and revising consent procedures.