Routine HIV testing should be offered to every sexually active person in the country and not just those known to be at risk for HIV, the nation’s premier medical journal is arguing.
In an editorial Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, world-renowned HIV/AIDS scientist Dr. Julio Montaner and his coauthors say that too many of those infected with HIV are diagnosed late, “sometimes very late,” and are unaware that their bodies are harbouring the virus.
Drug cocktails known as HAART, or highly active antiretroviral therapy, can drive blood loads of HIV to undetectable levels, the authors write. “Today, a 20-year-old who receives a diagnosis of HIV and treatment with HAART can expect to live until the age of 73 years.”
But at least one-quarter of those infected at any given time are unaware they have HIV, “and more than 50 per cent receive the diagnosis after immunodeficiency is established.”
Canada has no recommendation for routine testing beyond screening pregnant women and testing the blood supply, the authors write. Testing is also focused on people known to be at risk of HIV, including those who have multiple partners, men who have sex with men and IV drug users. “Those are the groups that traditionally get offered the test anytime they show up anywhere,” Montaner, director of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Vancouver, said in an interview.