TUESDAY, Nov. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors should screen all people aged 15 to 65 for HIV, as well as younger and older people who are at increased risk for infection with the virus that causes AIDS, according to a U.S. Preventive Services Task Force draft recommendation.
In addition, all pregnant women should be screened, including those in labor whose HIV status is unknown, the task force said.
The goals of the recommendation are to help people already infected with HIV stay healthy, delay the onset of AIDS and reduce the risk of spreading the infection.
The recommendation will be posted for public comment on the task force's website until Dec. 17. The task force, an independent group of experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine, will then develop a final recommendation.
Nearly 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, but up to 25 percent of them do not know they have HIV, the experts said.
"The draft recommendation reflects new evidence that demonstrates the benefits of both screening for and earlier treatment of HIV," task force member Dr. Douglas Owens, professor of medicine at Stanford University, said in a task force news release.
There is evidence that antiretroviral therapy can reduce the risk of HIV transmission to others, and also that initiating combined antiretroviral therapy at an earlier stage of infection may reduce a patient's risk of developing AIDS-related complications.
"Because HIV infection usually does not cause symptoms in the early stages, people need to be screened to learn if they are infected," Owens said. "People who are feeling well and learn they are infected with HIV can begin treatment earlier, reduce their chances of developing AIDS and live longer and healthier lives."
The authors pointed out, however, that the best way to achieve the ultimate goal of the recommendation -- which is to reduce HIV-related illness and death -- is to take steps to avoid infection in the first place.
For more on the recommendation, visit the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force website.