Tom Coburn, M.D., U.S. Senator (R-OK), AIDS Healthcare Foundation, to Back CDC's New HIV Testing Guidelines
Senator Says CDC's Move to Make HIV Testing Part of Routine Health Care Is Key to Controlling and Reducing the Number of Undiagnosed Individuals and Will Help Break the Chain of Infection

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Tom Coburn, U.S. Senator (R-OK), and AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the nation's largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care serving thousands of patients, will host a press conference today, Thursday, September 21st at 11:30am in Washington, DC, at Russell Senate Office Building, Room 188, to announce support for new Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) guidelines for HIV/AIDS prevention and testing strategies. The new guidelines -- to be released today at a separate CDC press conference -- encourage U.S. medical providers to make HIV testing a "routine part of care in doctors' offices and clinics for all patients ages 13 through 64." The guidelines encourage linkages to care and treatment for those found to be HIV infected, and also suggest that, "(HIV) ... screening should be routine, regardless of whether the patient is known or suspected to have specific behavioral risks for HIV infection."

"CDC's recommendation that HIV testing become a part of routine medical care will greatly enhance our ability to control the spread of this disease and improve the lives of those living with it," said Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), a practicing physician who has treated patients with HIV for over twenty years. "According to the CDC, one-fourth of the over one million Americans living with HIV do not know that they are infected. On average, it takes 10 years for HIV infection to progress to AIDS. Yet as many as 45 percent of persons testing positive for HIV received their first positive test result less than a year before AIDS was diagnosed, 40,000 Americans have become newly diagnosed with HIV every year for well over a decade, and about one half of those living with HIV are not receiving regular medical treatment. These numbers demonstrate the failure of the current policies that deter early diagnosis and why routine testing and access to treatment are essential if we wish to win the war against HIV."

"We are pleased to see the CDC proposing further normalization of HIV testing, and strongly believe these new guidelines must tie testing to access to medical care for those individuals found to be HIV positive," said Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President. "Increasingly, HIV/AIDS is a disease that affects minorities, with African American women representing the fastest growing proportion of new cases. The largest number of undiagnosed individuals is believed to be among minority populations, communities that frequently wait longer to seek care and treatment and often access such care on an emergency basis. These new CDC HIV testing guidelines will help us address some of these disparities of care by prioritizing early diagnosis and expanding access to primary medical care and treatment for those found to be HIV positive. These new guidelines will also help us better target federal resources to communities where the epidemic is growing to ensure that our focus remains on where the disease is today and where it is headed."

"The time has come for HIV testing to be routine for each and every sexually active person in the United States," said David A. Reznik, D.D.S., Director, Oral Health Center, Infectious Disease Program, Chief, Dental Service, Grady Health System in Atlanta and a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) and chair of its Care and Treatment Committee. "The CDC's new guidelines, calling for routine HIV testing for all individuals between the ages of 13 - 64, are a key step in our country's attempt to win the war against HIV disease."

AIDS Healthcare Foundation currently operates the largest alternative HIV testing program in California conducting more than 15,000 HIV tests in community-based settings in Southern California including three of AHF's Out of the Closet thrift stores in Los Angeles, through a testing program in the county's jail system, and a mobile unit which travels throughout the Los Angeles area providing free HIV and STD testing.

"AHF spearheaded several pioneering grassroots HIV testing programs in California which now provide more than 15,000 free HIV tests annually," added AHF's Weinstein. "We have also seen the success of more widespread and routine HIV testing in Uganda, where AHF currently operates 18 free AIDS treatment clinics. In addition, there is a growing emphasis on providing routine HIV testing both globally and domestically: the Ryan White CARE Act includes provisions for routine HIV testing, and President Clinton and global health leaders have recently stepped up the call for HIV testing to be included as a part of providing routine health care worldwide."

In addition, the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resource Emergency Act (RWCA), the federal law that provides the principal source of funding for AIDS care and services nationwide, includes provisions for $30 million in grants to support and promote early diagnosis efforts. The new Early Diagnosis Grants included in RWCA will provide $20 million to states with laws requiring routine HIV testing of pregnant women and universal testing of newborns, and $10 million to states that provide routine testing for clients at STD clinics and substance abuse treatment centers.

The CARE Act was first introduced in 1990 and is reauthorized every five years. The bill was set for reauthorization in September 2005, but Congress has yet to take action on it. It is now expected Congress will re-authorize the bill by September 30th.

Source: AIDS Healthcare Foundation

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