how do they test for hiv

How do they test for HIV?

HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, attacks the immune system causing greater susceptibility to infections as well as some kinds of cancer. Nowadays, HIV can be successfully controlled using anti-viral medications, however, to date, no cure has been invented that would be entirely sufficient in fighting it. HIV is responsible for the development of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which is its last, most advanced stadium. Why is it so essential to be tested for HIV? Being aware of your HIV status provides you with a powerful knowledge that will help you to take measures to maintain health and safety of yourself and the people close to you. It is estimated that over a million individuals within the United States are HIV positive. Of those, approximately 18% are not diagnosed and unaware of their infection. So, how does HIV testing work? Which measures to take to protect yourself and the ones you love? Read on to find out!

How do they test for HIV?

The only possible way to know whether you have HIV is to get tested against it. It is recommended that everyone in the age group of 13-64 should get tested against the presence of HIV antibodies at least once in a lifetime as part of their routine checks-ups. The available tests detect HIV antibodies in the blood and saliva. Antibodies essentially represent proteins that are produced by the human body during an infection and support the organism in fighting it. If you are HIV positive, your body produces special antibodies to fight the virus that can be further detected. There are generally two ways how to test for HIV: a blood and an oral test. A blood testing constitutes the standard way of detecting the virus. The test can identify both HIV specific antibodies or HIV antigens (proteins that are located in the virus cells). The blood is later sent to a laboratory and if the result is positive, you will be asked to give your blood sample once more to verify the initial HIV positive status. Additionally, you can test against HIV using an oral swab test that identifies HIV antibodies. The swab gathers oral fluid from your upper and lower gums. Next, you need to place the swab inside the test tube that will be provided with the kit and you can get your results as soon as in 20 minutes.

Where to get tested for HIV?

To receive an HIV test and get more information on the testing specifics, it is best to visit your medical clinic. Moreover, many community health centers, substance abuse initiatives, and family planning facilities provide them as well. These days, it is also possible to take the test at home. Two testing kits that have been authorized for use, can be purchased either at a pharmacy or online. Contrary to a widely-held belief, buying HIV tests online is absolutely reliable as long as you make sure to purchase the ones described below. The Home Access HIV-1 Test System is designed to obtain the blood sample from your finger by pricking it. The sample is afterwards sent the to a licensed laboratory in order to perform the testing. It is possible to receive the results even in 24 hours, by calling the laboratory. If the testing shows a positive result, a follow-up test will be commissioned for confirmation purposes. The test is fully anonymous. Moreover, the producer ensures counselling as well as treatment referral. The OraQuick In-Home HIV Test, on the other hand, consist of a test stick together with a tube that contains a testing solution. You need to use the test stick to swab your gums in order to obtain a sample of your oral fluids. Next, just place the test stick into the test tube and the results should be ready to read in as soon as 20 minutes.

Home tests – pros and cons

There are both advantages and disadvantages when it comes to performing HIV testing in the home environment. First of all, taking the test at home may feel less intimidating and increase your comfort, especially when you are concerned or afraid about being noticed at a clinic and judged by someone you know. Home testing is also a viable option for individuals that do not have easy access to a health facility or a community health center due to lack of transportation or disability. In that case, purchasing the test online could give them the opportunity to receive the diagnosis. Performing HIV testing at home allows for choosing the best time to do the test according to your own convenience. Moreover, the procedures are simple and produce the results quickly. On the other hand, a positive test result has to be, without exception, validated by additional testing done in a health facility. Performing the testing at home, moreover, represents a considerably more expensive choice as the procedure within health care settings and through various centers is usually provided for free, while the prices of home test kits amount up to $50. Importantly, obtaining the results, positive in particular, is accompanied by great emotions and it is desired to be informed about the results through a face to face interaction with a professional experienced in delivering such information in an appropriate and sensitive way. Finally, home testing eliminates the significant practice, namely partner notification, that is performed anonymously by health care facilities to protect other individuals.

What to do if you test positive?

After obtaining an HIV positive result, you will be instructed by a health care professional on the next steps that are necessary to take. As it is emotional experience, do not be afraid to express your state of mind and doubts at that time. Afterwards, another blood sample will be taken from you for further testing. Another HIV positive result will mean that you are infected with the virus. Nowadays, HIV represents an illness that can be effectively managed. Your health care facility may help you obtain the access to treatment and various support services. It is important to make use of any form of support offered. Additionally, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and tuberculosis may be also recommended. The sooner you decide to protect the health of yourself and your significant others, the better. Early administration of an antiretroviral treatment and a lifestyle change (e.g. changing sexual practices or eliminating psychoactive substances that damage the immune system) will considerably contribute to enjoying a high degree of well-being. In order to prevent passing the virus to anyone else, reveal the results to your partner and protect yourself with condoms during a sexual intercourse. Also, discuss with your partner the issue of how to get tested for HIV for her or his own safety as well as the option of pre-exposure prophylaxis to prevent the infection.

HIV infection represents undoubtedly a major health concern, however, it can be successfully mitigated using appropriate means, such as antiretroviral treatment or respecting the principles of a healthy lifestyle. The first step in addressing this concern is HIV testing, which should be considered if you are at a higher risk of exposure, due to sexual behaviors or needles sharing, among other factors. In practice, HIV testing can now be done fast and almost painless at a health facility or other supporting centers. Increasingly popular option is the opportunity to perform either oral or blood HIV testing at home. However, such a choice has some benefits and limitations. Performing the test at home is a convenient method, especially to those without access to a healthcare provider and also offers higher confidentiality as opposed to getting tested in a clinic. However, it is also quite expensive and lacks the very needed contact with a public health professional in the case of a positive result. Regardless of the testing method chosen and the result, remember that being HIV positive represents a major change in your current life but it does not mean the end of it. Adhering to your doctor’s recommendations will let you continue to actively participate in your life and the lives of your loved ones.

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