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Removing the stigma of HIV testing

New guidelines proposed by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommend that nearly everyone ages 15 to 64 be screened for HIV, even if they are not at higher risk for infection by the AIDS virus.

Patricia Emmanuel, MD, professor and chair of pediatrics at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, co-wrote the 2011 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines that advise testing for teens age 16 or older.  Dr. Emmanuel, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, said that pediatricians currently do not routinely screen for HIV in their practices or recommend HIV testing for sexually active teens. 

Patricia Emmanuel, pediatrics

USF’s Dr. Patricia Emmanuel works at the national level to advance routine HIV testing.

The issue is especially complicated in the case of adolescents for a variety of reasons, Dr. Emmanuel said, but when tests are limited to  high-risk patients, the very fact that someone had a test is a betrayal of confidentiality.  Making HIV tests routine “helps to create an environment where HIV testing is another medical screening test, not something so special,” she said.

The AAP Committee on Pediatric AIDS is working with USF and the Florida AIDS Education and Training Center to develop materials that can help pediatricians implement HIV testing. “Hopefully these measures and now this statement from the USPHS will advance routine testing,” Dr. Emmanuel said.

To read the full Los Angeles Times story including Dr. Emmanuel’s comments, click here.