Letter: AIDS testing saves lives, reduces risks
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a communicable infection that leads to a progressive disease with a long asymptomatic period. Approximately 56,000 persons in the United States are newly infected with HIV each year. Without treatment, most persons develop Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) within 10 years of HIV infection. Antiretroviral therapy delays this progression and increases the length of survival, but is most effective when initiated during the asymptomatic phase.
It is estimated that, on average, an HIV-positive person aged 25 years who receives high-quality care will survive an additional 39 years. There were 1.1 million adults and adolescents living with the HIV infection in the United States at the end of 2006; one fifth (21 percent) were unaware of their infection.
Persons with late diagnosis of HIV infection have missed opportunities for treatment during the asymptomatic period and for prevention of transmission to others; they also have a shortened life expectancy. Testing identifies infected persons, which enables them to seek medical care that can improve the quality and length of their lives and reduce risk for HIV transmission.
James B. Kenley, M.D., MPH
Port Haywood, Va.