Medicare plans to cover HIV testing

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) wants Medicare to cover routine HIV testing.

Under the proposed rule, people ages 15 to 65 will be able to get annual HIV screening. Adolescents under the age of 15 and adults over the age of 65 can receive an annual voluntary screening if they have an increased risk for HIV.

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According to the CMS, people with an increased risk of contracting HIV include men who have sex with men; men and women who have unprotected sex; men and women who exchange sex for money or drugs; those whose past partners were HIV infected, intravenous drug users or bisexuals; and those with a history of blood transfusions between 1978 and 1985.

Medicare coverage for pregnant women will not change. Women will still receive three voluntary HIV screenings — one when the pregnancy is diagnosed, another when the woman is in her third trimester and a third at labor.

The AIDS Institute, which has been lobbying for the rule change, said of the more than 1.2 million people living with HIV in the U.S., 168,000 are unaware of their infection.

“Ensuring that all people living with HIV are aware of their status is critical to their individual health and the public health,” the institute’s deputy executive director, Carl Schmid, said in a news release.

There are about 50,000 new infections a year, and the AIDS Institute said expanding Medicare to cover HIV screenings will increase the number of people who know their HIV status.

The public has 30 days to comment on the rule. The CMS is expected to publish its final decision by the end of April.