Two news articles caught my attention today and both address HIV testing in high schools. First, at one high school in San Francisco, the senior class is getting tested for HIV for their class project. The idea for the testing project, which is voluntary, came from one classmate who volunteers with an AIDS doctor. The students hope to inform and educate teens on the importance of getting tested.
Halfway across the globe, South Africa is implementing a testing program across its school systems in hopes of getting all South Africans to know their status and to receive treatment if positive.
Although there are concerns about privacy and professionalism in both cases, young people ages 13 to 19 constitute a significant percentage of those testing positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. And, although the young students in San Francisco may mot be the target group for most HIV prevention efforts, their project could serve as a pilot program for other students in high-risk groups or geographical areas. Similarly, the South Africa program could influence other countries to start testing earlier.
There is a lot of literature on screening programs in public health and associated harms caused by false positives and associated issues. So, the efficacy of population-level screening has to be a concern. However, for countries or regions with generalized epidemics or in areas with concentrated epidemics, screening those most at risk, and starting screening early ‘might’ help mitigate the spread. I hope SA is planning on studying this issue. I would like to dee a published data. And maybe, Caribbean countries where young people ages 13 to 19 are at higher risk of acquiring HIV will consider implementing a similar policy.