Significantly raising the frequency of HIV tests would benefit both high- and low-risk groups and prove cost-effective as well, according to research from Northwestern University. Publishing their findings in the journal AIDS, investigators conducted mathematical modeling to determining what the best frequencies for HIV screens would be among high-risk (those with an annual incidence of 1.0 percent or more), moderate-risk (0.1 percent incidence) and low-risk (0.01 percent incidence) groups. They based their calculations on the assumption that newly diagnosed people would enter treatment immediately—otherwise known as “test-and-treat.”

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that high-risk groups, including those with HIV-positive or multiple partners, injection drug users and sex workers, undergo annual HIV tests. Low-risk groups are advised to test once in a lifetime. The CDC does not distinguish moderate-risk groups in their recommendations. 

The investigators at Northwestern deduced that the optimal frequency for testing among high-risk groups is every three months, for moderate-risk every nine months, and low-risk about every two and a half years. They found that the extra tests would come at “a relatively low cost to society.”

The paper concludes that “[t]he current CDC guidelines for HIV testing are too conservative, and more frequent testing is cost-effective for all risk groups.”
To read the release, click here.

To read the study, click here.