September 01, 2015
2 min read

HIV screening among older adults fluctuating in recent years

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Despite the CDC’s 2006 recommendation that most health care providers screen older patients for HIV, regardless of symptoms, a large proportion of older adults are not being tested, according to recently published data in Public Health Reports.

“Although the recommendations were associated with a reversal of the downward trend in HIV testing among older adults from 2003 to 2006, subsequent levels of HIV testing reached neither the higher levels observed before 2006 nor the universal levels for which the recommendations call,” Chandra L. Ford, PhD, MPH, MLIS, Fielding School of Public Health at University of California at Los Angeles, and colleagues wrote.

Ford and colleagues analyzed data from the 2003-2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to assess trends in HIV testing among adults aged 50 to 64 years, before and after the CDC released the HIV routine testing recommendations in 2006. Participants (n = 872,797) were categorized into three age groups: 50-54 years (34.5%); 55-59 years (34.1%); and, 60-64 years (31.3%).

Results demonstrated that overall, the number of older adults who had been tested for HIV within the previous year decreased following the CDC’s recommendations (P < .001).  

Annual prevalence of testing fluctuated between 2003 and 2009, with a monotonic decrease from 5.5% in 2003 to 3.6% in 2006. Immediately after the recommendations were released, testing prevalence rose to 4.5% by 2009. However, the rate once again dropped, to 3.7%, by 2010.

The only consistent increase in testing was seen among older black individuals.

An association was seen between recently doctor’s visits and HIV testing.

The researchers noted that barriers to testing need to be identified in order to address the best ways of implementing universal HIV screening in older adults.

“HIV testing levels were very low, but access to care was high and improved with age; thus, even modest improvements in implementing the recommendations may improve rates of HIV testing among older adults. Older adults are very receptive to prevention messages from their providers, therefore, routinizing HIV testing may facilitate earlier HIV detection among those seeking care,” the researchers wrote. – by Casey Hower

Disclosures: Ford reports receiving support from a UCLA Faculty Career Development Award and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development via the UCLE California Center for Population Research. Please see the full study for a list of all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.