How often should you get tested?
Getting tested for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) is a very important and responsible step that we need to do regularly in our lives. This is for our own health and peace of mind, as well as for the health of our partners. HIV can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) as HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells – the soldiers of the body); which makes it harder for the immune system to fight off other infections. That’s why it’s very important to go to the clinic regularly to test your CD4 count and viral load (the amount of the virus in your body) even if you are HIV positive.
If you’re not sexually active
If you’re not sexually active, then you should still get tested at least once a year, just to make sure. Not only will you have peace of mind, but you’ll also be more informed for when you decide when you are ready to take that step and have sex for the first time. It is important to test with your partner before you have sex.
If you are sexually active
If you are sexually active, then you should be getting tested every 3-6 months - whether you’re regularly active, or even if it was just the one time. The reason for getting tested this often is due to the window period; which is the time between potential exposure to HIV infection and the time when the test will find HIV antibodies in your blood system. A person can be infected with HIV and still infect their partner but still test HIV negative if it’s still within that window period. Note that you are more infectious when you are in a window period as the virus is most active during the first phase of the infection. If you want to know more, I explain the window period in more detail in this article about hiv testing. You also need to get tested once you have been exposed to HIV or suspect you have been exposed.
If you’re pregnant
It’s very important to get tested if you’re pregnant, because if HIV is detected early enough, your healthcare provider will start you on treatment that will help prevent mother-to-child transmission, meaning your baby can be born without HIV. HIV & STI screening is part of the free, routine antenatal care (checkups done during pregnancy) at public clinics.
- If you’ve recently had unprotected sex or recently been at risk of HIV or STI infection, you should get tested at a clinic immediately (within 72 hours).
- You should get tested once a year regardless of your sexual history or sexual orientation (whether you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual).
STI and HIV testing really is one of the most important steps you can take for yourself, your health and your relationship. For more information about why you should get tested, read this article.
Or if you have any questions, simply ask me.
Remember, if you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657)
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