- Have you been tested for HIV?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) currently recommends that all adults to get tested for HIV infection at least once, regardless of risk factors for HIV infection. HIV test should be repeated if there is an ongoing risk of HIV infection. Finding out your HIV test results lets you know if you need to get treatment or keep staying safe. HIV testing can be accompanied by counseling, which involves talking with a trained counselor before and after taking the HIV test.
- Reasons why you should think you might be infected
- Have you ever had “unprotected” sex (sex without a condom or other latex barrier)–oral, vaginal, or anal?
- Have you ever been sexually assaulted (raped, forced or talked into having sex when you didn’t want to)?
- Have you ever had a sexually transmitted disease (STD) such as herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, or hepatitis?
- Have you ever passed out or forgotten what happened after you were drinking or getting high?
- Have you ever shared needles or other equipment to inject drugs or pierce the skin?
- Have you ever received a blood transfusion? (The risk is very low in the United States, but can vary in other countries).
- Did your mother have HIV when you were born?
If your answer is yes to any of the questions written above, you may be at increased risk of HIV infection and should consider getting a first HIV test or repeat HIV testing.
- What Does A Negative HIV Test Result Mean?
A negative result may not always be accurate. It depends on when you might have been exposed to HIV and when you took the test.
This happens as a result of the window period (the period of time after you may have been exposed to HIV, but before a test can detect it). The window period depends on the type of HIV test that you take. For example;
- For antibody tests, if you get a negative result within 3 months of your most recent possible exposure, you need to get tested again at the 3-month mark.
- For combination antibody/antigen tests or RNA tests, that timeframe may be shorter.
Ø What Does A Positive HIV Test Result Mean?
If your initial HIV test result is positive, follow-up testing is performed. HIV tests are generally very accurate, but follow-up testing allows you and your health care provider to be sure the diagnosis is right.
If you had a rapid screening test, the testing site will arrange a follow-up test to make sure the screening test result was correct. If your blood was tested in a lab, the lab will conduct a follow-up test on the same sample. If the confirmatory test is also positive, you will be diagnosed as “HIV-positive.”
Ø Steps to take if you Are HIV positive
The sooner you take steps to protect your health, the better. Early treatment with antiretroviral drugs and a healthy lifestyle can help you stay well. Prompt medical care prevents the onset of AIDS and some life-threatening conditions.
To protect your health, you should do the following:
- See a licensed health care provider, even if you don’t feel sick. Your local health department can help you find a health care provider who has experience treating HIV. There are medicines to treat HIV infection and help you stay healthy. It’s never too early to start treatment. Current guidelines recommend treatment with antiretroviral therapy (ART) for all people with HIV, including those with early infection.
- Get screened for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). STIs can cause serious health problems, even when they don’t cause symptoms. Using a condom during all sexual contact (anal, vaginal, or oral) can help prevent many STIs.
- Have a tuberculosis (TB) test. You may be infected with TB and not know it. Undetected TB can cause serious illness, but it can be treated successfully if caught early.
- You should get help if you smoke cigarettes, drink too much alcohol, or use illegal drugs (such as methamphetamine), which can weaken your immune system.
To avoid giving HIV to anyone else, you consider the following:
- Tell your partner or partners about your HIV status before you have any type of sexual contact with them (anal, vaginal, or oral).
- Use latex condoms and/or dental dams with every sexual contact. If either partner is allergic to latex, plastic (polyurethane) condoms for either the male or female can be used.
- Don’t share needles, syringes, or other drug paraphernalia with anyone.
- Stay on ART to keep your virus under control and greatly reduce your ability to spread HIV to others.
- If your steady partner is HIV negative, discuss whether he or she should consider pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medications to prevent HIV.
- Benefits of going for HIV Screening/Test
Some people won’t get tested for HIV because they are scared of what the results will be. In the early days of the HIV epidemic, being diagnosed with HIV was like receiving a death sentence. However, there have been tremendous advances in treatment for HIV-positive individuals. While there is still no cure, early detection drastically improves outcomes. Starting treatment earlier greatly reduces AIDS related symptoms and decreases rates of transmission. The benefits of treatment are reduced the longer you wait, so it’s in your best interest to get tested sooner rather than later.
Ø Dangers associated with Delay in HIV Test
Many people don’t get tested because they think they don’t have any of the risk factors for HIV infection. However, a 2011 study showed that 69% of HIV-infected patients said they weren’t tested earlier because they didn’t think they were at risk. Make sure you know what the risk factors are, and, if you have any of them, make sure to get tested.
- HIV & Stigmatization
In spite of awareness about HIV since it was first discovered over 30 years ago, many people still fear that others will think less of them if they are diagnosed with HIV. They are also worried that they could be discriminated against if others learned of their HIV positive status. However, the United States and other UN member nations have laws that protect those who are HIV-positive from being discriminated.
- Best time to get tested / treated
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 97% of HIV infected persons will develop antibodies within three months. This means that, getting tested three months (12 weeks) after possible exposure will give you the most accurate test result. Early detection tests can sometimes identify the virus as soon as three weeks after exposure. However, if you’re worried, you have the option to be tested at the three-week mark. If your test comes back negative, you should get tested again at three months to confirm your results.
- Your test result can be kept a secret if you want
This depends on whether the test is anonymous or confidential. If you are tested anonymously, your name is not recorded and no one can have access to your test results. Confidential testing means that your name and test results are linked, and will not be made public, but may be reported to health departments or become part of your medical record. In some areas, your HIV status can be made known to previous or current sex partners without your permission. Since the rules differ from state to state and from country to country, you should ask the test site who can have access to your test results if you choose confidential testing.
Article by: eDokita Team.
- gov. ‘HIV Testing: Understanding Your Test Result’. 2015. Web.
- University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center. ‘Insite: Comprehensive up-to-date information on HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention from the University of California, San Francisco’. 2011. Web.
- ‘Barriers to HIV testing’. 2013. Web.