Obama quietly institutes mandatory HIV testing

An executive order from the White House, which follows renewed criticism of Obama’s AIDS strategy during his visit to Africa in late June and early July, called for better coordination of the national effort.

Obama’s order said that recent studies had shown that aggressive testing and early treatment can have a significant impact in preventing transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS.

“In light of these data, we must further clarify and focus our national efforts to prevent and treat HIV infection,” it said. “This acceleration will enable us to meet the goals of the Strategy and move closer to an AIDS-free generation.”

The order said a working group chaired by Grant Colfax, director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius would have 180 days to deliver recommendations to the president.

The HIV Care Continuum Working Group will gather information from federal agencies on HIV testing and care, review HIV research, and recommend ways to accelerate and improve HIV treatment and care, it said.

The new order follows recommendations this year from the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force that all 15 to 65 year olds be screened for HIV infection, something that will be covered under Obama’s signature heath reform, the Affordable Care Act.

Nearly one in five of the estimated 1.1 million people with HIV in the United States are undiagnosed, and a third are still not receiving medical care, even though antiretroviral drugs can forestall long-term health risks of the disease and cut the risk of transmission by as much as 96 percent.

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