NCHR Comment on the USPSTF’s Draft Recommendations for HIV Infection Screening in Nonpregnant Adolescents and Adults


United States Preventive Services Task Force
5600 Fishers Lane, #06E53A
Rockville, Maryland 20857

 

National Center for Health Research’s Public Comment on USPSTF Draft Research Plan for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection in Nonpregnant Adolescents and Adults: Screening

 

Thank you for the opportunity to express our views on the draft research plan for HIV infection screening for nonpregnant adolescents and adults. This is a very important issue for public health.

The National Center for Health Research is a nonprofit research center staffed by scientists, medical professionals, and health experts who analyze and review research on a range of health issues.

While USPSTF’s past reviews determined that there was a net benefit of screening for HIV infection in nonpregnant adolescents and adults, there were gaps in the literature, and subsequent treatment regimens require evaluation. We appreciate USPSTFs efforts to keep up with evolving research by regularly reevaluating the literature and reviewing the recommendations, extracting as much moderate-to-high quality data from the literature as possible.

The USPSTF recommendations will be most useful to patients if they are based on studies that accurately represent the population that needs screening, i.e. all nonpregnant adolescents and adults. Therefore, the draft research plan should endeavor to ensure that there are subgroup analyses of all major groups of nonpregnant adolescents and adults, rather than using exclusion criteria that may unintentionally introduce bias. Excluding people with “occupational exposure” would exclude people who need effective screening and could also disproportionately exclude some demographic groups. Furthermore, the final research plan should include a clear definition of the term “occupational exposure,” in order to minimize confusion over studies to include.

Long-term studies are needed to elucidate the potential benefits and harms of treatment in nonpregnant adolescents and adults. Hence, it is important to include as many quality long-term follow-up studies as possible that appropriately study the effects of these drugs. Although the previous recommendation found that the health risks of taking antiretroviral drugs were small compared to the health risks of untreated HIV infection, it is still necessary to know what the health risks may be. There may be few long-term studies that look at health risks. Therefore, we are concerned that ambiguous inclusion/exclusion criteria could unintentionally overlook some of these studies. In addition, interpreting potential harms broadly for nonpregnant adolescents and adults ensure the identification of known risks and allow better consideration of risks in the updated recommendation.

We strongly support USPSTF’s ongoing effort to provide screening guidances based on quality, up-to-date scientific studies. We recommend a very careful selection of exclusion populations and studies in order to have a thorough review that allows the USPSTF to develop the best informed recommendations possible.

 

For questions or more information, please contact Stephanie Fox-Rawlings at sfr@center4research.org.

 

Reference:

USPSTF Final Recommendation Statement Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection: Screening, April 2013. http://bit.ly/2ner4OT

USPSTF Draft Research Plan for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection in Nonpregnant Adolescents and Adults: Screening, February 2017. http://bit.ly/2nKFeZK