Washington DC has the the highest rate of new HIV and AIDS cases in the U.S.
As many as 2 per cent of all DC residents suffer from AIDS or have the HIV virus and as many as 180 new cases per 10,000 are diagnosed each year.
For this reason DC health authorities are planning to introduce a campaign that would test every 14- to 84-year-old in the state for the virus.
The new campaign will begin this week with the distribution of around 80,000 free oral swab kits to doctors, hospitals, community health centers, STD clinics, and detoxification and de-addiction centers.
The results which are available in just 20 minutes will inform a patient of his or her positive status almost immediately.
The plan is to make HIV testing as routine as getting a blood-pressure check.
Health officials hope to be able to test as many as 400,000 people by this method and believe the campaign to be both innovative and comprehensive.
Dr. Marsha Martin, who was with an HIV awareness and prevention group AIDS Action, will head the program.
Dr. Martin says screening for HIV has to become routine for all if addressing the epidemic in the community is to be taken seriously.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also suggested that doctors should include AIDS screening in their routine tests for patient between the ages of 13 and 64 years.
Such recommendation however rankle with privacy advocates who say such a tests could strip HIV-positive people of their privacy and a breach of confidentiality would make it difficult for them to lead normal lives.
According to CDC estimates, about 25 per cent of the one million HIV positive Americans don’t know they are carrying the virus and are unwittingly spreading the disease.
Revision date: July 9, 2011
Last revised: by Jorge P. Ribeiro, MD