An Ounce Of Prevention
Testing for HIV is important, but so is prevention.
According to the CDC, abstinence and monogamy with an uninfected partner can limit the risk of HIV, and “consistent and correct use of latex condoms is highly effective in preventing sexual transmission of HIV.”
But those are not the only strategies that can help protect you against HIV.
Last year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent expert panel that makes recommendations to the government and medical organizations about preventive care, recommended that anyone at high risk for HIV use pre-exposure prophylaxis .
PreP is a regimen of daily medications that can reduce the risk of HIV infection.
Additional reporting by Lauren F. Friedman
When To Get Tested For Hiv
If you think you might have been exposed to HIV, its best to speak to a healthcare professional immediately.
Even if you dont think you have been at risk, testing regularly is good practice for people who are having sex. Its important to test for HIV during pregnancy. If you know your status, you can avoid passing the virus on to your baby. A window period is the amount of time it takes after infection for a test to give you an accurate result. Its good to know about window periods, but dont delay getting tested if you think you might have been exposed to HIV.
You May Be At Risk Without Realizing It
The CDC estimates that about 1.1 million people live with HIV in the U.S. But about 1 in every 7 of them doesn’t know he or she is infected.
Philip Chan, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Brown University and director of the Rhode Island STD Clinic, gives the example of a married couple in which one partner has been unfaithful. That would mean the other could have been exposed unknowingly.
Its uncomfortable talking to patients about these things, Chan says. That may be one reason the rate of screening is so low, he says, and why he and others would like to see it become a more routine part of care.
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Does There Have To Be Consent To Have An Hiv Test
HIV testing must only be performed after a person gives consent that is explicit, informed and voluntary.
It is understood in Canada that respecting and protecting peoples rights needs to be central to HIV testing. HIV testing is voluntary in Canada, meaning that a person is free to accept or refuse an HIV test without threat or coercion. Under no circumstances should the person be pressured to receive an HIV test.
What is informed consent?
A person being tested for HIV must provide informed consent. To be able to provide informed consent, the person must be able to:
A pre-test discussion should ensure that the person being tested is able to provide informed consent. The Public Health Agency of Canadas HIV Screening and Testing Guide recommends that verbal informed consent be sufficient, as with other medical tests.
Letting Partners Know You Have Hiv
If you have just been diagnosed with HIV, it will likely be a difficult time. You might still be struggling to come to terms with diagnosis.
During this time, it is important to let any sexual or injecting partners know they may have been exposed to HIV as soon as you can, so they can be tested and offered PEP if appropriate.
You do not have to do this alone. Your doctor or the Department of Health and Human Services Partner Notification Officers can help you through this process and ensure your identity is not revealed.. Both groups can provide information, support, and guidance for people living with HIV.
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Hiv Is Detected With A Blood Test
Blood tests are the most common and reliable tests for HIV. The virus is detected by taking a sample of your blood either with a conventional blood test or a rapid test .There is a short period of time between exposure to HIV and the ability for tests to detect HIV or its antibodies. This is often referred to as the ‘window period’ between 2 and 12 weeks.
Most tests used in Australia can detect HIV as early as 2 to 4 weeks after infection.
If your blood test shows that HIV or its antibodies are present, you are HIV-positive.
If you have no antibodies in your blood you are HIV-negative. Sometimes negative results might also mean you are in the window period, so you might need a follow-up blood test to make sure.
Why Should I Get Tested
Knowing your HIV status is very important for your health. Its also important for the health of your sexual partners and any people you share drug use equipment with.
If you are HIV positive, it is better for your health if you are diagnosed and start treatment as early as possible. With proper treatment and care, most people with HIV can stay healthy and live a long, full life.
In addition to the health benefits, successful treatment also means that people with HIV:
- can have healthy HIV-negative babies
- are less likely to transmit HIV if they share needles or other drug use equipment
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How Often Do I Need To Get Tested For Hiv
Everyone ages 15 to 65 needs to get tested for HIV at least once. All pregnant women also need to get tested. People at higher risk for HIV infection may need to get tested more often. Talk to your doctor or nurse about how often you need to get tested.
Get tested for HIV at least once a year if you’re at higher risk.
For example, you may be at higher risk for HIV if you:
- Are a man who has sex with men
- Have sex with someone who has HIV
- Use drugs with needles
- Have sex in exchange for drugs or money
- Have had 1 or more new sex partners who could have HIV since your last test
If you’re a man who has sex with men, you may need to get tested even more often like every 3 to 6 months. Talk to your doctor or nurse about what’s best for you.
Where To Get Tested For Hiv
Getting an HIV test is easy. Tests for HIV and other STIs are confidential and available from your local doctor , or a sexual and reproductive health clinic.
It is a good idea to have some pre-test counselling. Before the test, talk with your doctor, nurse, or peer tester about any concerns, your level of risk, whether you are likely to be HIV-positive and what a positive result may mean.
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If My Test Is Negative Do I Need Get Tested Again
Talk to your doctor or the counselor or social worker at the testing site to see if you need to get tested again.
Some reasons to get tested again include if you:
- have sex without a condom
- are a guy who has sex with other guys
- have had sex with more than three partners in the past year
- get an STD
- are a woman and are pregnant
Does Hiv Always Show Up On Testing
No, if someone was recently infected, it might not show up with testing. How quickly HIV shows up on testing depends on the type of test done:
- Testing that looks for the virus itself can find HIV 728 days after infection.
- Testing that looks for HIV antibodies can find HIV antibodies 312 weeks after infection.
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Hiv Testing In A Health Care Setting Or Lab
If you take a test in a health care setting or a lab, a health care provider or lab technician will take your sample . If its a rapid test, you may be able to wait for the results, but if its a laboratory test, it can take several days for your results to be available. Your health care provider or counselor may talk with you about your risk factors, answer any questions you might have, and discuss next steps with you, especially if your result is positive.
- If the test comes back negative, and you havent had an exposure during the window period for the test you took, you can be confident you dont have HIV.
- If your HIV test result is positive, the lab will conduct follow-up testing, usually on the same sample as the first.
What Are The Types Of Hiv Tests
There are three types of tests used to diagnose HIV infection: antibody tests, antigen/antibody tests, and nucleic acid tests . How soon each test can detect HIV infection differs, because each test has a different window period. The window period is the time between when a person may have been exposed to HIV and when a test can accurately detect HIV infection.
- Antibody tests check for HIV antibodies in blood or oral fluid. HIV antibodies are disease-fighting proteins that the body produces in response to HIV infection. Most rapid tests and home use tests are antibody tests.
- Antigen/antibody tests can detect both HIV antibodies and HIV antigens in blood.
- NATs look for HIV in the blood.
A persons initial HIV test will usually be either an antibody test or an antigen/antibody test. NATs are very expensive and not routinely used for HIV screening unless the person had a high-risk exposure or a possible exposure with early symptoms of HIV infection.
When an HIV test is positive, a follow-up test will be conducted. Sometimes people will need to visit a health care provider to take a follow-up test. Other times the follow-up test may be performed in a lab using the same blood sample that was provided for the first test. A positive follow-up test confirms that a person has HIV.
Talk to your health care provider about your HIV risk factors and the best type of HIV test for you.
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What Happens If I Test Positive For Hiv
If your initial test is positive for HIV antibodies, then additional testing is required to confirm that the first one was accurate. Sometimes this involves a second blood test.
When you are first diagnosed you will probably experience strong emotions. During this time, do not try to cope on your own. Seek support by speaking with your doctor, or contact your local community organisation. They have trained peer workers available to help you through the initial stages of a positive diagnosis, but also through your journey of living well with HIV.
Part of testing best practice includes pre- and post-test counselling. Post-test counselling is important, regardless of the outcome. If you test positive, counselling can provide emotional support, further information about living with HIV, and referrals to support services.
If the test is negative, counselling can provide education about HIV and how to reduce your HIV risk in the future. are community organisations that provide support and advocacy for people with HIV. Peer workers are also available to help you navigate living with HIV.
If you have recently been diagnosed with HIV, visit Next Steps for more information.
Why Get Tested For Hiv
Knowing your HIV status has two important benefits. First, if you are HIV positive, you can take necessary steps before symptoms appear to get treatment, care and support services, potentially prolonging your life for many years. Second, if you know you are infected, you can take precautions to not pass on HIV to others.
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Who Should Get Tested For Hiv
Roughly one in seven Americans who have HIV dont know they do. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 65 get tested at least once. If you are in a higher risk group, you should consider more frequent testing.
Even if you tested negative, you should get tested if you can answer yes to any of these questions about your activity since that test. Have you:
- Had sex with another man ?
- Had anal or vaginal sex with someone who is HIV-positive?
- Had more than one sex partner?
- Injected drugs with a shared needle?
- Received another STI diagnosis?
- Had sex with someone who could answer yes to any of these questions?
If you believe you may have had HIV exposure within the last 72 hours, talk to your healthcare provider. You may be able to get post-exposure prophylaxis — ie, medication. A PEP can prevent HIV when administered correctly. The sooner you begin to take it, the better, although it isnt 100% effective.
Reducing Hiv Risks From Chemsex And Drug Use
- Inject drugs.
- Forget to take your HIV medications.
- Are taking PreP it can be less effective if it is mixed with other drugs.
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Why Is Hiv Testing Important
Knowing your HIV status can help keep youand otherssafe.
If you are HIV negative:
Testing shows that you dont have HIV. Continue taking steps to avoid getting HIV, such as using condoms during sex and, if you are at high risk of getting HIV, taking medicines to prevent HIV . For more information, read the ClinicalInfo fact sheet on HIV prevention.
If you are HIV positive:
Testing shows that you have HIV, but you can still take steps to protect your health. Begin by talking to your health care provider about antiretroviral therapy . People on ART take a combination of HIV medicines every day to treat HIV infection. ART is recommended for everyone who has HIV, and people with HIV should start ART as soon as possible. ART cant cure HIV, but HIV medicines help people with HIV live longer, healthier lives.
A main goal of ART is to reduce a persons viral load to an undetectable level. An undetectable viral load means that the level of HIV in the blood is too low to be detected by a viral load test. People with HIV who maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to their HIV-negative partner through sex.
How Do People Get Hiv
HIV is passed from one person to another:
- through sexual intercourse ,
- through blood , and/or
- from mother to baby.
Most women with HIV have been infected through sexual intercourse. Many did not know their partner was HIV-positive.
If you use drugs or get a new sexual partner while you are pregnant, or do not totally trust your partner, you should be tested for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B at the beginning and near the end of each pregnancy. No one will think badly of you if you ask to be tested again. They will know you are trying to do the best thing for your baby.
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Im Pregnant When Should I Test
Testing for HIV during your pregnancy is very important. Left undiagnosed and untreated women living with HIV can pass the virus on to their unborn babies. In most countries, HIV tests are a routine part of the care women receive during pregnancy . Partners of pregnant women should also get tested during this time.
The earlier you test in your pregnancy the better. You’ll usually be tested in your first appointment, ideally before your tenth week. These tests should be repeated, either every three months or at least once again in your third trimester.
Your doctor will tell you everything you need to know about HIV testing alongside the other blood tests they do during pregnancy.
If you find out you are positive, youll be given treatment to prevent passing HIV on to your child. The earlier you start treatment, the greater the chance your child will be born HIV-negative. Check out our section on Pregnancy, childbirth & breastfeeding for more information.
Why Should Someone Get Tested For Hiv
If someone is infected with HIV, it’s important to know because:
- Starting medicines right away can keep a person stay healthy for a long time.
- There are ways to stop the spread of HIV to others, such as using a condom and taking medicines.
- A pregnant woman who is infected can get treatment to try to prevent passing HIV to her baby.
Another reason to get tested is peace of mind: A negative test result can be a big relief for someone who is worried about being infected.
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Who Should Be Tested For Hiv
Everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should be tested at least once as part of your routine health care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, if youre at higher risk of HIV infection, you should be tested more often. We can advise you on how often to be tested.
You should be tested for HIV right away if you are sexually assaulted because immediate treatment can prevent HIV infection.
Hiv Testing And Your Rights
Testing for HIV is voluntary and can only be done with your informed consent, except in exceptional circumstances.
Before you are tested, you will be provided with information about what is involved. what the results might mean for you, and how to prevent HIV transmission in the future. All people who request an HIV test must receive this information from the test provider.
Under Australian and Victorian law, it is unlawful to discriminate against anyone who has HIV. Test results, and details on whether someone has been tested are strictly confidential. It is illegal for any information about a person being tested or a person with HIV to be disclosed without their permission.
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