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Routine testing for HIV recommended

WASHINGTON — Americans ages 15 to 64 should get an HIV test at least once — not just people considered at high risk for the virus, an independent panel that sets screening guidelines proposed Monday.

The draft guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force are the latest recommendations that aim to make HIV screening simply a routine part of a checkup, something a doctor can order with as little fuss as a cholesterol test or a mammogram. Since 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has pushed for widespread, routine testing for the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS.

Yet not nearly enough people have heeded that call: Of the more than 1.1 million Americans living with HIV, nearly one in five — almost 240,000 people — don't know it. Not only is their health at risk without treatment, they also could be spreading the virus to others. About 50,000 new HIV infections occur in the United States each year.

The task force is an independent group that operates under the auspices of the Department of Health and Human Services to advise the government and physicians on the medical evidence for preventive health measures.