The World Health organization announced on Wednesday that voluntary HIV tests should be offered to all patients attending clinics, for whatever reason, especially in countries where AIDS is widespread.
Usually, testing is recommended for all patients attending selected facilities such as sexual health clinics.
The WHO said a major expansion in testing was essential if the world was to beat the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which has taken the lives of over 25 million people in the last few years.
“This is radical in the sense that things have to change. Across the world, people with HIV are flowing through healthcare settings, not being diagnosed and not being offered the advantages of knowing their status,” said WHO HIV/AIDS director Kevin De Cock.
Drugs can hold HIV at bay and keep patients alive, but unless people know they are infected they will not seek treatment. They are also more likely to infect others.
According to the WHO, less than 20 per cent of HIV-positive people in low and middle-income countries know they are infected. However, in rich countries the situation is better, yet in the US an estimated 25 per cent of infected people are unaware they are carrying the virus.
Until now, most testing has been “client-initiated”, with individuals having to actively seek an HIV test. In the future, the WHO expressed its desire to see “provider-initiated” schemes, with testing becoming the norm at health centres, unless a patient declines.