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UAlbany and Weill Cornell Researchers Discuss Broad Impact of HIV-Testing Guideline Changes in New England Journal of Medicine

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NEW YORK (February 21, 2013) — University at Albany and Weill Cornell Medical College researchers discuss proposed changes in HIV-Testing guidelines by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) in a perspective article in the March 7 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Authors Erika G. Martin, assistant professor of public administration and policy at UAlbany's Rockefeller College and fellow at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, and Dr. Bruce R. Schackman, associate professor of public health and chief of the Division of Health Policy at Weill Cornell, address the broad impact the changes will have on the health care of HIV-infected patients.

The perspective article, "Updating the HIV-Testing Guidelines — A Modest Change with Major Consequences," argues that changes to proposed guidelines — including assigning a grade A recommendation to screening for HIV in the general population 15 to 65 years of age — will have significant implications for the way HIV testing is financed, largely due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. If the grade A recommendation is adopted, most individuals of this age who have public or private health insurance coverage will be able to receive an HIV test without any out-of-pocket cost.

Martin and Dr. Schackman also point out that the cost of HIV testing is the "tip of the iceberg," because most HIV costs are for treatment after diagnosis. Despite expanded insurance availability as a result of the Affordable Care Act, major reductions in safety net funding "would make it difficult to support HIV-infected patients who cannot successfully navigate the new environment or afford subsidized insurance with sufficiently generous benefits to cover their care." The expected shift of funding from safety-net hospitals to community health centers may also reduce capacity at HIV clinics serving low-income patients, according to the authors.

"Improving insurance coverage for HIV testing is a critical step for identifying the one-fifth of people living with HIV who are unaware of their infection," said Martin.

"Removing these financial barriers is a significant step, but anyone who is identified as HIV-infected must also be linked to and retained in care in order to improve their health and prevent further HIV transmission," Dr. Schackman adds.

Read the full perspective article from the New England Journal of Medicine: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1214630.

About UAlbany

Educationally and culturally, the University at Albany-SUNY puts "The World Within Reach" for its 17,500 students. An internationally recognized research university with 50 undergraduate majors and 125 graduate degree programs, UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as public policy, nanotechnology and criminal justice. With a curriculum enhanced by 300 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers. Visit UAlbany's extensive roster of faculty experts.

Weill Cornell Medical College

Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University's medical school located in New York City, is committed to excellence in research, teaching, patient care and the advancement of the art and science of medicine, locally, nationally and globally. Physicians and scientists of Weill Cornell Medical College are engaged in cutting-edge research from bench to bedside, aimed at unlocking mysteries of the human body in health and sickness and toward developing new treatments and prevention strategies. In its commitment to global health and education, Weill Cornell has a strong presence in places such as Qatar, Tanzania, Haiti, Brazil, Austria and Turkey. Through the historic Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, the Medical College is the first in the U.S. to offer its M.D. degree overseas. Weill Cornell is the birthplace of many medical advances — including the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer, the synthesis of penicillin, the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S., the first clinical trial of gene therapy for Parkinson's disease, and most recently, the world's first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally conscious brain-injured patient. Weill Cornell Medical College is affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, where its faculty provides comprehensive patient care at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. The Medical College is also affiliated with the Methodist Hospital in Houston. For more information, visit weill.cornell.edu.

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