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Am Fam Physician. 2005;71(12):2254

Advise Sexually Active Patients to Consider HIV Testing

to the editor: “In the absence of a cure for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, prevention is the most effective strategy for reducing the number of new cases.”1 This sentence from the 2004 American Family Physician article “HIV Counseling, Testing, and Referral” by Dr. Gallant was just as true in 1987.2 I’m delighted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its recommendations to reduce barriers to testing.3 As a disease with a long asymptomatic stage during which an infected person may unknowingly spread the infection to others, and with a test that is highly sensitive and specific, HIV is a classic condition for early detection. Routine screening should be the norm.

The price of occasional anxiety over a false-positive test result is small compared with the millions who have died because we have been so slow to institute widespread testing. Physicians should advise their patients to raise the topic of HIV infection in conversation with a prospective sexual partner and suggest that both be tested before they have intercourse.

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This series is coordinated by Kenny Lin, MD, MPH, deputy editor.

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