April 9, 2012
Delaware's HIV/AIDS rate ranks eighth-highest among the states, and it is also one of the last states still noncompliant with a CDC recommendation promoting early detection. State policy makers, medical providers and advocacy groups are working to rectify that.
In March, the Delaware Senate unanimously passed a bill advocating HIV testing as part of routine medical screenings. Registered nurse Arlene Bincsik, an adviser to the committee that composed the bill and the HIV program director for Christiana Care Health System, said the bill is necessary because "a significant number of people in the US are unaware of their infection."
Sara Grainger, director of Community Planning and Policy Development at the Delaware HIV Consortium, said an estimated 21 percent of those HIV-positive are unaware. Furthermore, she said that 50 percent of new cases are associated with people who were unaware of their HIV-positive status.
Six years ago, CDC credited routine screenings before transfusions and the testing of pregnant women for substantial decreases in transfusion-related and perinatal HIV transmission. However, CDC said the lack of routine medical screening for HIV was hampering efforts to thwart sexual transmission.
Bincsik noted that health care providers would not be required to perform HIV prevention counseling, but they would have to secure patients' consent prior to testing. She added that patients may opt out of HIV testing, which is covered by health insurance.
Early detection can improve treatment outcomes for those infected. In addition, "communities that have a large number of HIV-positive people in care and on effective treatment" are realizing fewer infections, said Bincsik.