What you need to know about HIV Testing
Knowing your HIV status
Chomas, the only way to know your status is to get tested. Knowing your status is important because the sooner you get tested, the earlier you can get information and treatments that will help manage the condition and delay the onset of AIDS, should you be tested positive for HIV.
Who should get tested?
If you have engaged in any sexual activity, have shared needles when injecting drugs or have accidently exposed yourself to the infection (for example when a condom breaks), then you need to get tested.
The healthcare professional
The healthcare worker is there to help you. He or she will normally talk to you about the actual testing and what the possible medical, personal or psychological consequences of being HIV positive or HIV negative are. He or she will also ask you why you have decided to do an HIV test and if there are any risks that may have exposed you to HIV, such as a broken condom while having sex. This process is called ‘pre-counselling’ and is optional.
Remember that the healthcare professional has probably heard many different stories from many people coming for an HIV test, so anything you tell him or her will not be new. There is no need to feel like you will be judged. Ask as many questions as you want, don’t be shy. If you feel that you can’t do this alone, then ask a close, trusted friend to accompany you when going for the HIV test. Better yet, if you are in a relationship with your partner where you are both engaging in sex, then support each other by both going for an HIV test.
The testing procedure
After the pre-counselling, the healthcare worker should explain which test will be given to you and how the results will be given to you. Testing normally includes taking a sample of oral fluid or a small sample of blood from either your arm or finger. Results are normally given within 20 minutes, unless they are sent to a lab where you will then get your results from a day to two weeks.
How can you protect yourself from HIV infection if your results are negative?
If your result comes back negative it’s advisable to come back after 3 months of taking your first HIV test. The period between you being exposed to HIV to the time the results come back is called the ‘window period’. During the window period, it’s advised that you remain in a monogamous relationship while using a condom every time you have sex.
HIV testing privacy
Whether your test results are positive or negative, they will still fall under the same privacy rules as all your medical information. In other words, any information about your HIV test can’t be released without your permission. All information shared with your healthcare provider is confidential.
Knowing your status is better
Feeling worried about HIV is normal, chomas. Testing for HIV not only puts you at ease but you can do something about it if you’re diagnosed as HIV positive then you can get early treatment but continue to have safe sex. If you are diagnosed as HIV negative - stay that way by always practising safe sex. If you are diagnosed as HIV negative but continue to engage in unprotected sex you will still be at risk for HIV infection.
For HIV testing you can visit your local clinic, a doctor, nearest hospital or a family planning clinic.
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