Grade: A The USPSTF recommends the service. There is high certainty that the net benefit is substantial.
The USPSTF recommends that clinicians screen for HIV infection in adolescents and adults aged 15 to 65 years. Younger adolescents and older adults who are at increased risk of infection should also be screened. See the Clinical Considerations section for more information about assessment of risk, screening intervals, and rescreening in pregnancy.
Frequency of Service
The USPSTF found insufficient evidence to determine appropriate or optimal time intervals or strategies for repeat HIV screening. However, repeat screening is reasonable for persons known to be at increased risk of HIV infection, such as sexually active men who have sex with men; persons with a sex partner who is living with HIV; or persons who engage in behaviors that may convey an increased risk of HIV infection, such as injection drug use, transactional sex or commercial sex work, having 1 or more new sex partners whose HIV status is unknown, or having other factors that can place a person at increased risk of HIV infection (see “Risk Assessment”). Repeat screening is also reasonable for persons who live or receive medical care in a high-prevalence setting, such as a sexually transmitted disease clinic, tuberculosis clinic, correctional facility, or homeless shelter.
Risk Factor Information
Although all adolescents and adults aged 15 to 65 years should be screened, there are a number of risk factors that increase risk. Among adolescents younger than 15 years and adults older than 65 years, clinicians should offer testing to patients at increased risk. Most new diagnoses of HIV infection are attributed to male-to-male sexual contact; injection drug use is another important risk factor. Additional risk factors include having anal intercourse without a condom, having vaginal intercourse without a condom and with more than 1 partner whose HIV status is unknown, exchanging sex for drugs or money (transactional sex), having other STIs or a sex partner with an STI, and having a sex partner who is living with HIV or is in a high-risk category. Persons who request testing for STIs, including HIV, are also considered to be at increased risk.
This recommendation applies to adolescents, adults, and all pregnant persons regardless of age. Based on the age-stratified incidence of HIV infection and data on sexual activity in youth, the USPSTF recommends screening for HIV infection beginning at age 15 years. Adolescents younger than 15 years and adults older than 65 years should be screened if they have risk factors for HIV infection.
Assessment of Risk
Although all adolescents and adults aged 15 to 65 years should be screened, there are a number of risk factors that increase risk. Among adolescents younger than 15 years and adults older than 65 years, clinicians should consider the risk factors of their patients, especially those with new sex partners, and offer testing to patients at increased risk.
Most (67%) new diagnoses of HIV infection are attributed to male-to-male sexual contact,2 and the estimated prevalence of HIV infection among men who have sex with men is 12%.3 Injection drug use is another important risk factor for HIV infection; the estimated prevalence of HIV infection among persons who inject drugs is 1.9%.3 In 2017, male individuals 13 years and older accounted for 81% of new diagnoses of HIV infection.2 Most (83%) of these new diagnoses of HIV infection were attributed to male-to-male sexual contact, while 9% were attributed to heterosexual contact, 4% to injection drug use, and 4% to both male-to-male sexual contact and injection drug use.2 Among female individuals 13 years and older, 87% of all new diagnoses were attributed to heterosexual contact and 12% to injection drug use.2
Additional risk factors for HIV infection include having anal intercourse without a condom, having vaginal intercourse without a condom and with more than 1 partner whose HIV status is unknown, exchanging sex for drugs or money (transactional sex), having other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or a sex partner with an STI, and having a sex partner who is living with HIV or is in a high-risk category. Persons who request testing for STIs, including HIV, are also considered at increased risk.
The USPSTF recognizes that these risk categories are not mutually exclusive, that the degree of risk exists on a continuum, and that persons may not be aware of the HIV or risk status of their sex partner or the person with whom they share injection drug equipment. Patients may also be reluctant to disclose risk factors to clinicians.
Current CDC guidelines recommend testing for HIV infection with an antigen/antibody immunoassay approved by the US Food and Drug Administration that detects HIV-1 and HIV-2 antibodies and the HIV-1 p24 antigen, with supplemental testing after a reactive assay to differentiate between HIV-1 and HIV-2 antibodies.8,9 If supplemental testing for HIV-1/HIV-2 antibodies is nonreactive or indeterminate (or if acute HIV infection or recent exposure is suspected or reported), an HIV-1 nucleic acid test is recommended to differentiate acute HIV-1 infection from a false-positive test result.8,9
Antigen/antibody tests for HIV are highly accurate, with reported sensitivity ranging from 99.76% to 100% and specificity ranging from 99.50% to 100%, and results can be available in 2 days or less.8 Rapid antigen/antibody tests are also available.9
When using a rapid HIV test for screening, positive results should be confirmed. Pregnant women presenting in labor with unknown HIV status should be screened with a rapid HIV test to get results as soon as possible.
The USPSTF found insufficient evidence to determine appropriate or optimal time intervals or strategies for repeat HIV screening. Repeat screening is reasonable for persons known to be at increased risk of HIV infection, such as sexually active men who have sex with men; persons with a sex partner who is living with HIV; or persons who engage in behaviors that may convey an increased risk of HIV infection, such as injection drug use, transactional sex or commercial sex work, having 1 or more new (ie, since a prior HIV test) sex partners whose HIV status is unknown, or having other factors that can place a person at increased risk of HIV infection (see the Assessment of Risk section). Repeat screening is also reasonable for persons who live or receive medical care in a high-prevalence setting, such as a sexually transmitted disease clinic, tuberculosis clinic, correctional facility, or homeless shelter. The CDC recommends annual screening in persons at increased risk10 but recognizes that clinicians may wish to screen high-risk men who have sex with men more frequently (eg, every 3 or 6 months) depending on the patient’s risk factors, local HIV prevalence, and local policies.11 Routine rescreening may not be necessary for persons who have not been at increased risk since they last tested negative for HIV.
The USPSTF found no evidence on the yield of repeat prenatal screening for HIV compared with 1-time screening during a single pregnancy. The CDC10 and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)12 recommend repeat prenatal screening for HIV during the third trimester of pregnancy in women with risk factors for HIV acquisition and in women living or receiving care in high-incidence settings, and the CDC notes that repeat screening for HIV during the third trimester in all women who test negative early in pregnancy may be considered. Women screened during a previous pregnancy should be rescreened in subsequent pregnancies.
No cure or vaccine for HIV infection currently exists. However, early initiation of ART and other interventions effectively reduce the risk of clinical progression to AIDS, AIDS-defining clinical events, and mortality. Also, studies to date have shown that when ART leads to viral suppression, no cases of virologically linked HIV transmission have been observed. Interventions other than ART include prophylaxis for opportunistic infections when clinically indicated, immunizations, and cancer screening. In addition, ART treatment in pregnant women living with HIV and use of other precautions substantially decrease the risk of transmission to the fetus, newborn, or infant.
The clinical treatment of HIV infection is a dynamic scientific field. The Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents of the US Department of Health and Human Services regularly updates guidelines for HIV treatment regimens.13
Additional Approaches to Prevention
The USPSTF recognizes that the most effective strategy for reducing HIV-related morbidity and mortality in the United States is primary prevention, or avoidance of exposure to HIV infection. Avoiding behaviors that may convey an increased risk of HIV infection and consistent use of condoms can decrease the risk of transmission of HIV and other STIs. The USPSTF recommends providing intensive behavioral counseling for all sexually active adolescents and for adults at increased risk of STIs.14
The Community Preventive Services Task Force has made several recommendations related to the prevention of HIV/AIDS and other STIs.15
Prophylactic intervention with antiretroviral medications, both preexposure and postexposure, can prevent HIV infection. Postexposure prophylaxis is used in persons who do not have HIV and may have been exposed to it via sexual contact, occupational or nonoccupational needle stick or other injury, or sharing injection drug equipment. When initiated soon after possible exposure, postexposure prophylaxis can prevent HIV infection. Preexposure prophylaxis is used in persons who do not have HIV and are at high risk of acquiring HIV infection. It consists of antiretroviral medication taken every day, before potential exposure. The USPSTF recommends offering preexposure prophylaxis to persons at high risk of HIV acquisition.16
More information about HIV and AIDS is available at HIV.gov17 and from the CDC.18 The CDC has made recommendations on screening for HIV in adolescents, adults, and pregnant women in health care settings10 and the prevention of HIV transmission in adolescents and adults living with HIV;19 guidelines on the use of ART and the potential adverse effects of ART are regularly updated at https://www.aidsinfo.nih.gov.13
As recommended by the CDC, HIV screening should be voluntary and performed only with the patient’s knowledge and understanding.10 Patients should be informed orally or in writing that HIV testing will be performed unless they decline (known as “opt-out screening”). Patients should receive an explanation of HIV infection and the meaning of positive and negative test results. Patients should also be offered the opportunity to ask questions and to decline testing.
The substantial benefit of screening is realized only if detection of HIV is followed by initiation of appropriate ART and provision of other services for persons found to have HIV. Thus, entry into care for persons identified as having HIV is essential. The CDC provides guidance on counseling, referral to care, treatment, and prevention of HIV transmission.19,20 Clinicians should be aware that some persons with HIV may face substantial barriers to receiving appropriate services.
Research Needs and Gaps
Research is needed on the yield of repeat vs 1-time screening for HIV and different repeat screening intervals to inform recommendations on optimal screening intervals. Data on optimal rescreening strategies in pregnant women are needed.
Persons who initiate ART tend to continue receiving it for an extended length of time. Thus, continued research on the potential harms of long-term use of ART is an important research need. Further research is also needed to understand the effects of in utero exposure to ART on pregnancy outcomes and long-term effects in exposed children, to optimize the selection of ART regimens during pregnancy.
Update of Previous USPSTF Recommendation
In 2013, the USPSTF recommended screening for HIV infection in adolescents and adults aged 15 to 65 years, screening in younger adolescents and older adults at increased risk, and screening in all pregnant women.69 The current updated recommendation continues to strongly recommend screening for HIV infection in adolescents and adults aged 15 to 65 years, younger adolescents and older adults at increased risk, and all pregnant persons.
Approximately 1.1 million persons in the United States are currently living with HIV,1 and more than 700,000 persons have died of AIDS since the first cases were reported in 1981.2 The estimated prevalence of HIV infection among persons 13 years and older in the United States is 0.4% (0.7% in males and 0.2% in females),3 and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2017 HIV Surveillance Report show a significant increase in HIV diagnoses starting at age 15 years (compared with ages 13-14 years).2 The annual number of new cases of HIV infection diagnosed in the United States has decreased slightly in recent years, from about 41,200 new cases in 2012 to 38,300 in 2017.2 Approximately 15% of persons living with HIV are unaware of their infection.1,3,4 It is estimated that persons unaware of their HIV status are responsible for 40% of transmission of HIV in the United States.4
An estimated 8700 women living with HIV give birth each year in the United States.5 HIV can be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy, labor, delivery, and breastfeeding. The incidence of perinatal HIV infection in the United States peaked in 19926 and has declined significantly following the implementation of routine prenatal HIV screening and the use of effective therapies and precautions to prevent mother-to-child transmission. Nearly 22,000 perinatal infections were prevented between 1994 and 2010 because of screening and preventive measures.7
The USPSTF found convincing evidence that currently recommended HIV tests are highly accurate in diagnosing HIV infection.
Benefits of Detection and Early Treatment
The USPSTF found convincing evidence that identification and early treatment of HIV infection is of substantial benefit in reducing the risk of AIDS-related events or death. The USPSTF found convincing evidence that the use of antiretroviral therapy (ART) is of substantial benefit in decreasing the risk of HIV transmission to uninfected sex partners. The USPSTF also found convincing evidence that identification and treatment of pregnant women living with HIV infection is of substantial benefit in reducing the rate of mother-to-child transmission. The overall magnitude of the benefit of screening for HIV infection in adolescents, adults, and pregnant women is substantial.
Harms of Detection and Early Treatment
The USPSTF found adequate evidence that individual antiretroviral drugs, ART drug classes, and ART combinations are associated with some harms, including neuropsychiatric, renal, and hepatic harms and an increased risk of preterm birth in pregnant women. The overall magnitude of the harms of screening for and treatment of screen-detected HIV infection in adolescents, adults, and pregnant women is small.
The USPSTF concludes with high certainty that the net benefit of screening for HIV infection in adolescents, adults, and pregnant women is substantial.
Recommendations of OthersIn 2006, the CDC recommended routine voluntary screening for HIV infection in all adolescents and adults aged 13 to 64 years, regardless of other recognized risk factors, unless HIV prevalence was documented to be less than 0.1% within a patient community.10 The CDC recommends that all persons should be screened at least once in their lifetime and those with risk factors be screened more frequently (eg, annually); the CDC also recently recommended that clinicians consider testing sexually active men who have sex with men more frequently (eg, every 3 to 6 months) based on risk behaviors, community HIV prevalence, and other considerations.11 In 2009, the American College of Physicians recommended routine screening for HIV infection.70 The Infectious Diseases Society of America recommends routine screening for HIV infection in all sexually active adults and pregnant women.71 In 2017, ACOG reaffirmed a previous recommendation that all females aged 13 to 64 years be tested at least once in their lifetime and annually thereafter if they are assessed to have risk factors for HIV infection.72 The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends universal screening for HIV infection once between the ages of 15 and 18 years, and annual reassessment and testing of persons at increased risk.73 The American Academy of Family Physicians supports the 2013 USPSTF recommendations, except it recommends that routine screening begin at age 18 years and that only adolescents at increased risk be tested at younger ages.74 The CDC,10 ACOG,12 American Academy of Pediatrics,75,76 American College of Physicians,70 and American Academy of Family Physicians74 recommend routine screening for HIV infection in all pregnant women using an opt-out approach, and rapid screening for women who present in labor whose HIV status is unknown. The CDC10 and ACOG12 recommend repeat testing during the third trimester in women with risk factors and in women living or receiving care in high-incidence settings who had a negative test result earlier in pregnancy; the CDC10 notes that repeat testing in the third trimester may be considered for all women with a negative test result early in pregnancy.
- JAMA Patient Page: Who Should Be Screened for HIV Infection?
- Screening for HIV Infection and Preexposure Prophylaxis for the Prevention of HIV Infection: AFP's Putting Into PracticeThe journal American Family Physician (AFP) provides a series of short case studies and quizzes based on recommendations issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.