What Is HIV Testing?
HIV Testing is a test that shows whether an individual has HIV. The HIV is an abbreviation of human immunodeficiency virus. AIDS or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is the most advanced stage of HIV infection. While the testing can detect the HIV infection but will not tell exactly how long a person has had the virus. It will also not tell if the person has AIDS.
Why Are HIV Tests Important?
If you know your status, you will be in a better position to keep yourself, and others safe.
When The Results Are Negative
If the test results are negative, this means that you do not have the HIV virus. It is, therefore, a good idea to protect your health through using protection. If you are at high risk of infection, you might want to start taking preventive medication such as PrEP and PEP. These medications reduce the chances of getting infected if you are in sexual contact with an infected person.
What If The Results Are Positive?
Positive results show that you have the HIV virus. This is not the end of your life since there are many ways you can maintain good health. You can start with talking to your doctor about ART or antiretroviral therapy. ART is all about taking a combination of medications that work together to fight the infection. This therapy helps people with HIV live a long healthy life and significantly reduces transmission. If you test positive, it is important to talk to your doctor so that they can help you select the right medication.
Who Needs a HIV Test?
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), any person between the age of 13 and 64 should get tested for HIV as part of a routine health check up. If you are a person at high risk of infection, you need to test once every year. Sexually active bisexual and gay men may need to get a test more often such as once every three to six months.
There are some factors that are known to increase the risk of infection. These include:
- Having vaginal or anal sex with a person you do not know their HIV status or with a HIV positive individual.
- Sharing needles, syringes and other drug injecting tools with other people.
- Exchanging sex for drugs or money
- Having sexually transmitted diseases
- Tuberculosis or hepatitis
- Having sex with an individual who has one or more of the risks above.
It is crucial that you talk to a health practitioner about the risk you are dealing with and the frequency of testing.
Pregnant Women and HIV Testing
Health organizations around the world recommend that all pregnant women get a HIV test. This allows them to start taking HIV medication if the results are positive. When they take the medication during pregnancy and childbirth, the risk of mother-to-child transmission is significantly low.
Type of HIV Tests
There are 3 main types of tests for HIV diagnosis. There is the antibody test, antigen/antibody test, and the NATs or nucleic acid tests. The speed at which the test can detect the virus varies with each test. This is because each of these tests has its own window period.
- Antibody HIV tests – These tests will check for HIV antibodies in oral fluid or blood. These antibodies are proteins that fight disease and are present in the body once it detects the presence of the HIV virus. Most of the home use test and rapid test kits are antibody tests.
- Antigen/Antibody HIV tests – The tests can detect the antibodies that fight HIV and HIV antigens which are parts of the virus.
- NATs –These tests specifically look for the HIV virus in the blood.
In most cases, the tests are either antibody or antibody/antigen tests. This is because NATs are quite expensive and thus their use is not frequent.
Is A HIV Test Confidential?
HIV tests can either be confidential or anonymous. You can choose whichever depending on how private you want your results to be.
This simply means that the results will have your name and other identifying details and will also be in your medical records. This, therefore, means that the positive results will also be in reports by the state or local health departments and will be in statistical data. The health departments will, however, remove all personal information before sending the data to the CDC. CDC will use the information for reports and will not share it with any other organization.
Anonymous HIV Testing
Just as the name suggest, this test does not require your name. When you take the test, you get a number. You will need to present the number to get the results. This means that your name will not be in state or local reports even if you turn out positive.
Where Can You Get A HIV Test?
A health care provider can give you a HIV test. There are many medical clinics, community health centers and hospitals that provide HIV testing. If you are in the United States, you can easily use the CDC testing locator. This locator can help you find a testing location near you.
It is important to test for HIV to know your status. This allows you to protect yourself and others regardless of the status. If you test positive, it is not the end of your life since there are medications that can help you live a long healthy life. There are also dating sites for people living with HIV which makes dating an easy and fun process. This simply means that people will not judge by your status because everyone understands what you are going through. If you are sexually active, get the HIV test often especially if you have multiple sex partners. Make sure you use protection when engaging in sexual activities to protect yourself.