Over half of men and a little under 40% of women said they had never been tested for HIV, and the most common reason was because it was unlikely they had been exposed, researchers found.
Outside of donating blood, 53.8% of men and 38.8% of women ages 15 to 44 said they had never been tested for HIV, and over 70% of both men and women cited “unlikely to be exposed to HIV” as the most common reason for not being tested, reported Isaedmarie Febo-Vazquez, MS, of the National Center for Health Statistics, and colleagues.
Writing in the National Health Statistics Reports, the authors said the information is in line with prior research that found that over 50% of adults ages 18 to 64 had never been tested for HIV outside of the blood-donation process, even though one in eight of those infected with HIV did not know they had the virus.
“There is considerable evidence of the public health benefits of early detection of HIV, including timely access to appropriate clinical care, optimized health outcomes, and a reduction in the sex- and drug-related risk behaviors that are associated with HIV transmission,” they wrote.
The researchers examined 2011-2015 data from the National Survey of Family Growth, comprised of a representative sample of 9,321 men and 11,300 women ages 15 to 44 in the U.S.
Demographically, the younger people in this cohort (ages 15-24) were more likely than those who were older (ages 25-44) to have been tested. Non-Hispanic black women and men had the lowest percentages of those who had never been tested for HIV (20.8% and 32.2%, respectively), the authors said.
They speculated that there may be “age-related barriers” to young people obtaining HIV testing, including “determining when and where to seek testing, limited knowledge about HIV, and concerns about confidentiality.”
Not surprisingly, Febo-Vazquez et al noted that a lower percentage of those who engaged in HIV-related risk behaviors reported never being tested for HIV compared with those who did not engage in those behaviors. Still, about one in four women and about one in three men who engaged in these risky behaviors said they had never been tested for HIV.
Awareness of HIV status could potentially play a role in reducing these behaviors, the authors noted, adding that awareness is “a key factor in improving individual outcomes and reducing behaviors that may lead to new HIV infections.”
When examining reasons for not being tested, those who said it was unlikely they were exposed to HIV were more likely to be younger (for men only), currently married, and non-Hispanic white, and those ages 25 to 44 had a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Interestingly, about 20% of both men and women said they were “never offered an HIV test,” which was the second most common reason for never being tested.
The authors reported having no conflicts of interest.