The American Academy of Pediatrics has called for individuals as young as 13 to undergo testing for HIV in areas where the disease is particularly prevalent, and for all at-risk teens to be tested regularly.
In the Nov. 1 issue of Pediatrics, the organization’s official journal, the group suggested that in areas where the HIV occurs in more than 0.1 percent of the population, everyone from age 13 to 64 should be regularly tested as part of routine medical examinations.
In population with less prevalence of the disease, all teenagers engaging in sexual behaviors or with other risk factors should be routinely tested.
Because many families do not have regular physicians, the academy suggested providing the testing services in emergency and urgent care facilities in which an adolescent is a patient. The group also recommended allowing the testing with the consent of the minor alone, without parental consent or inclusion in the decision.
According to Time magazine, research shows that teens aware of their HIV status and who submit to regular testing are less likely to spread the disease to others.
“Our youth are having sex and our youth are getting HIV,” Patricia Emmanuel, co-author of the report, told Time. “If you look at the epidemiology of HIV and the numbers of infected youth, very few are infected at age 13. The key is for pediatricians to assess the overall risk in their patient population.”
“HIV is not just a grown-up disease,” she added. “The greatest increase is in young gay men, mostly ethnic minorities. Many are 16, 17 and 18. They are not 13, but they are teenagers.”
But some medical professionals questioned how the wider testing would be implemented, and its cost.
“There is reasonable evidence to support screening, but it is not clear what the best approach is,” Dr. Jason Haukoos of the Denver Health Medical Center told Reuters. “I think the policy statement is a reasonable statement, but I say that recognizing that they don’t take it far enough in terms of how this should be done.”
Haukoos cited concern over disclosure of the testing, consent for it, and the cost for the additional testing. “The big issue here,” he said, “is we don’t know if it’s cost effective.”