Pros and Cons of Widespread HIV Testing in Developed Worlds
In some parts of the world, HIV is a much more prominent than it is in the industrialized areas of the West and the East. In many countries in Africa, for example, HIV infection rates are at epidemic proportions. One of the proposed ways for helping stop this epidemic is by doing more widespread testing for the virus, including offering the tests even to people who show no symptoms of carrying the virus and increasing the number of people tested in the developed parts of the world, too. This approach has generated mixed feelings.
Back in 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that health clinics in developing parts of the world with high levels of HIV infections needed to begin offering HIV tests to anyone who came to those clinics for treatment, regardless of the reason for their visits. Patients could refuse the test, however. Following testing, patients would receive counseling. The idea is, of course, that people are spreading HIV because they do not know they are infected. By giving them this knowledge, the WHO hopes to stem the rising numbers of infected people. The WHO also believes HIV testing should be more widespread in the industrialized nations, too.
One of the biggest benefits of doing more widespread testing is that more people will be diagnosed with the disease. Researchers today suspect that at least one-third of all the people who have HIV do not know they have been infected. As a result, they could be unknowingly spreading the disease to their partners. Another pro is that early detection could help some patients improve their longevity with treatments. At least in parts of the developed world, drugs are available that can control the virus and help patients maintain their quality of life. If they wait until symptoms are apparent or until the virus becomes full blown AIDS, their treatment options are going to be much more limited. Also, be getting a better idea of who has been infected, researchers can begin to get a clearer picture of the high risks groups and can make better suggestions for prevention in the future.
Widespread HIV or STD testing is going to be expensive. The costs are going to have to be paid from the governments, health insurance, and other programs when the money could be spent towards other types of testing or treatment. Another con is that knowing one is infected may not deter behavior that could spread the virus and some people may avoid health clinics altogether for fear of being tested.
The Bottom Line
While widespread testing could have some benefits, before implementing such an approach in the developed world, the costs and the drawbacks need to be carefully examined. Continuing to test high risk groups and to make testing available easily to anyone is a good approach that has been working to some degree. Education, as well as testing, is important to slowing the spread of HIV.