July 07, 2016
2 min read

PCPs missing opportunities to screen young men for HIV

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Young men on average visit a physician’s office at least once per year, yet just 1% of those visits include an HIV test, indicating there are many more opportunities for screening in primary care settings, according to data published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

“In 2014, 81% of new [HIV] infection diagnoses in the United States were in males, with the highest number of cases among those aged 20 to 29 years,” D. Cal Ham, MD, of the CDC National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, and colleagues wrote. “… Early initiation of antiretroviral therapy for persons with diagnosed HIV infection has been shown to reduce the risk for HIV transmission and improve clinical outcomes.”

To find opportunities for HIV diagnoses in young males aged 15 to 39 years, the CDC researchers examined data from the 2009-2012 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS) and the U.S. Census. They estimated the average number of annual visits to physicians’ offices per person, and the average annual percentage of visits where an HIV test was performed in HIV-negative, non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black and Hispanic males.

Data collected included patients’ demographic characteristics, services provided, patients’ symptoms, physicians’ diagnoses and medications prescribed.

According to the researchers, the overall U.S. Census population figure used in the study was 49,550,703 males aged 15 to 39 years, with an average of 66,905,523 annual visits to a physicians’ office, meaning young males made an average of 1.35 visits per year to a physician from 2009 to 2012. The number of annual visits per person was lower for all age groups among black and Hispanic males compared with white males. In addition, HIV testing was performed at 674,001, or 1%, of visits made by males aged 15 to 39. HIV tests were reported among 0.7% of white males, 2.7% of black males and 1.4% of Hispanic males.

“Males aged 15 to 39 years frequently visited physicians’ offices, but HIV testing was not performed at 99% of those visits,” Ham and colleagues wrote. “CDC recommends repeat testing at least annually for persons at high risk for HIV infection, and although the optimal annual percentage of visits with an HIV test to achieve universal testing is unknown, these results indicate there are opportunities to improve HIV testing rates at physicians’ offices.” – by Jason Laday

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.