Last updated: February 19. 2013 7:25PM - 167 Views

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EARLY TREATMENT for HIV is more successful than later treatment. But that's not the only reason to praise the recommendation of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that doctors should test almost everyone ages 15 to 64 for the virus that causes AIDS.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1.2 million people in the United States are infected with HIV but that close to 1 in 5 don't know it. Even before there was any effective treatment for HIV, large-scale testing as a preventive measure could have kept a tremendous amount of suffering and death at bay. It should have begun years ago. Decades ago.

Fear and prudishness got in the way.

In 1989, the topic of whether to offer screening to all pregnant women was highly controversial. Some pediatric AIDS specialists pointed out that with early information, they might be able to avoid transmission of the virus to the fetus. Others contended that there was too much risk of social isolation for women who tested positive.

Most of us know better now. And no one would be required to undergo the simple test. But if the task force's draft guidelines are adopted after the four-week comment period, most health insurance will cover the cost and most doctors will offer it to all their patients instead of hanging back lest they offend someone.

Los Angeles Times

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