Health Buzz: Adults, Get Your HIV Screening, Says U.S. Panel

The CDC wants baby boomers tested for hepatitis C. Now what? Plus, tips for giving this Thanksgiving

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U.S. Panel Says Most Adults and All Pregnant Women Should Be Screened For HIV

All adults ages 15 to 65 should be screened for HIV, suggests the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Pregnant women should also be screened for the virus, as well as people outside the 15 to 65 age bracket who are at higher risk of HIV infection. The Task Force—an influential panel of doctors that develop guidelines for preventive services—published this information yesterday in a draft recommendation that's open to public comment until December 17. "Because HIV infection usually does not cause symptoms in the early stages, people need to be screened to learn if they are infected," Douglas Owens, a Task Force member and Stanford University professor of medicine, said in the draft recommendation. "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."

New human immunodeficiency virus infections have dropped 50 percent across 25 countries, according to a Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) report published yesterday. And worldwide, AIDS-related deaths fell by more than 25 percent between 2005 and 2011.

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  • The CDC Wants Baby Boomers Tested for Hepatitis C: Now What?

    Ask the average American about hepatitis C, and there's a good chance you'll get a blank or befuddled stare. It's the sort of disease someone's heard of, but can't quite recall how it spreads or what it does. What's worse, upwards of 3 million Americans—75 percent of whom are baby boomers—have the virus but don't know it. That's because this population was likely infected in the 1970s and 1980s, amid high rates of hepatitis C infections, but may not be showing any symptoms—yet. The leading cause of liver cancer and liver transplants, hepatitis C can become fatal if it progresses to liver disease.

    In a telephone briefing last week, in which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged all Americans born between 1945 and 1965 to get tested for hepatitis C, the agency's director, Thomas Frieden, realized that he, too, required screening. "As I've been conducting this briefing, it has occurred to me that I was born during that time period, and as far as I know, I haven't been tested," he said. He had his tonsils out as a boy, for example, referring to one of the many possible ways that someone could be exposed to the virus. Hepatitis C is transmitted by blood and has spread, for example, through blood transfusions and organ transplants that took place before 1992—which marked the start of widespread screening of the blood supply—as well as through needles for injection drug use or tattoos, and even razors at a barbershop or nail salon.

    A big part of the problem is the symptomless nature of hepatitis C. It can take 30 years for people to show any signs of the virus, and by then, it may be too late for effective treatment. If detected in time, however, promising new treatments can cure the disease. Hence, the CDC's effort at "catching up our screening recommendations" to these medical advancements, Frieden says. The new, age-based guidelines build on the CDC's current risk-based ones in the effort to "identify these silent infections" in as many as 800,000 Americans, Frieden says. [Read more: The CDC Wants Baby Boomers Tested for Hepatitis C: Now What?]

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    • Tips for Giving This Thanksgiving

      What better harvest celebration is there but Thanksgiving? If you garden or will spend the holiday with someone who does, you may get to enjoy home-grown versions of traditional favorites like mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, green beans with slivered nuts, fresh salads, and, perhaps, even the star of the table himself.

      Sharing what we've grown, however, is only one way to share the "garden of your life" this Thanksgiving, writes U.S. News blogger Daron (Farmer D) Joffe. Here are some others: