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Pulse on Health: Health providers, please do routine HIV screening

Here's a question for Rochester-area health providers.

What percentage of your patients ages 13 to 64 have been tested for HIV?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone of those ages get tested at least once.

Dr. Stacey Rizza, chair of the Mayo Clinic HIV Clinic, said in October that if everyone were tested and "if we knew every person with HIV and treated every person with HIV aggressively, it would be gone in one generation."

She makes that profound statement based on 2011 research that shows aggressively treating an HIV-positive person's medical condition (regardless of male or female) produced a "96 percent reduction in HIV transmission."

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But, for that to happen, patients need to know their HIV status. In 2010, the CDC said, about 15.8 percent of people with HIV didn't know they had it.

It's hard to get ahead of an infectious illness that can hide undetected for as long as decades unless testing is done (people have been newly diagnosed with HIV at Mayo Clinic in Rochester as late in life as their 80s).

Many think they're magically immune. But if you've ever had sexual contact with another person, shared needles, gotten a needle stick as a health provider, had an HIV-positive mother at birth, been injured alongside other trauma victims, gotten a blood transfusion or a tattoo, you might be at risk.

Many of those risks have been mitigated, with donor blood being pre-tested, for example.

But it seems any Rochester health provider should know his or her percent of patients already tested for HIV.

If you're a health provider with the ability to screen for HIV as part of your licensure, and you don't know that answer, it's time to find out.

And it's time to routinely screen your patients in the same way you ask about vaccination against influenza.

Federal rules now allow the HIV test as part of routine screening, with patients able to opt out if they prefer.

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If you're a patient, and your doctor hasn't screened you for HIV, ask to be tested. Or call 507-328-7500 and request an appointment at Olmsted County Public Health (tests are done by appointment on Mondays and Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m.).

Let's all work together to make this Rizza's "one generation."

Related Topics: HEALTH
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