The government recommends everyone get tested for HIV to help stop the spread of the disease. But a report found that only 20 percent of federally funded medical centers are meeting guidelines of who gets tested.
Medical centers receiving federal funding aren't following government guidelines regarding HIV tests, a new investigative report found.
In fact, only 20 percent of the centers tested all teens and adults, ages 13-64, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fifty-five percent of the centers are testing "high-risk" individuals, but a report by the Health and Human Services Department Office of Inspector General said that may no longer be adequate.
"Traditionally, groups at high-risk for HIV included men who have sex with men, those who have unprotected sex with people who have HIV and those who share injection drug needles. However, according to CDC, the HIV epidemic has spread beyond these traditional high-risk groups," the inspector general said. "The changes in the populations affected by HIV are such that CDC no longer considers a traditional high-risk designation as the key determinant for who should receive an HIV test.
The tests are designed to identify and stop the spread of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which is the cause of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Patients can't opt out of the tests if they don't want them done, but until that happens, the CDC says all adults should be receiving the test.
"CDC recommended these practices to expand HIV testing to a wider patient population, reduce the stigma that surrounds testing, and increase the number of people who know their status," the report said.
The tests are suppose to be conducted by centers that receive funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an HHS office that helps provide medical care to individuals who "are uninsured, isolated or medically vulnerable," according to its website. In 2011, the office funded health centers that provided service to 17 million people, according to IG reports.
The CDC has recommended universal routine testing since 2006. As of June 2012, the CDC estimates there are 1.2 million Americans living with HIV, with estimates that one in five doesn't know they have it.
Health centers have told the inspector general that patients usually aren't willing to pay for HIV testing, but that getting the funding from the government to make the tests free has improved participation.
The IG report stressed the importance of testing, and recommended that medical facilities follow the government guidelines to help stop the spread of HIV. The Health Resources and Services Administration agreed, and said it is continuously working on ways to increase knowledge of and compliance with CDC recommendations.
"The Health Resources and Services Administration remains a committed partner in efforts to help people living with HIV/AIDS live longer and healthier lives," HRSA said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, is the federal government's disease-fighting agency that conducts research on cures and advocates methods of preventing infections. This time of year, CDC advocates for flu shots.
The Health and Human Services Department, or HHS, is the government's healthcare agency, tasked with looking to the wellbeing of the American people, and overseeing programs like the CDC, Medicare and Medicaid, among others.
The Office of Inspector General, or IG, is an independent watchdog office within each government agency tasked with investigating wrongdoing and finding areas for improvement.