Infections constitute a serious physical risk to your health if ignored. Infections come in different forms and can include sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
HIV has many stigmas attached to it, however, with recent developments it is treatable. Someone living with HIV has a full life expectancy if their condition is managed properly.
That is why it is so important to get tested.
What is HIV?
HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is an STD caused by a virus. The virus infects the body fluid and affects the immune system. If you get HIV, your ability to fight infections decreases, and gradually it can lead to acquired immunodeficiency system (AIDS).
Once a person contracts HIV, it affects the CD4 cells that are crucial for fighting infection. When untreated, it decreases the CD4 cells in the body, thus making the person more prone to infections. If a person is diagnosed with any diseases like cancer, their body will not be able to resist it, and will eventually collapse.
No cure has been developed for AIDS. However, HIV can be controlled through a therapy called Antiretroviral therapy. This therapy preserves life and prevents the development of AIDS.
When to get tested for HIV?
You should get tested for HIV if you have had sex with an HIV positive partner, have more than one sexual partner, have injected drugs and shared the needle with others, was diagnosed and treated for any other STD, and show symptoms of HIV. You may also want to have a conversation with your practitioner about whether or not you need an HIV test if you are older and had a blood transfusion before the 1980s.
If You’re Worried About HIV Testing
If you feel worried, concerned, anxious, or embarrassed about the possible exposure to HIV, please don’t. The fact that you are thinking about your health and wanting to take proactive steps is a positive thing. Most people test negative for HIV, if you test positive, there are many options available to help you live a full and normal life. The trick is early detection.
The sooner you act, the better your outcome will likely be. When HIV first came to the forefront of our media and social conversation, in the 1980s, there was no treatment. Automatically, a stigma attached to the disease.
Symptoms of HIV
The most common symptoms of HIV are fever, headache, sore throat, body pain, night sweats, joint or muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes, and ulcers in the mouth or genitals. Often there are no or very few symptoms in the first few years of infection.
How to get tested for HIV?
Although testing for HIV is the only way to find whether or not you have contracted it, there are different types of tests.
HIV antibody test
This is a blood test conducted to figure out whether your body has developed any antibodies to fight HIV type 1 and 2. If these antibodies are present in the blood, then it means that you are HIV positive. It would take 3-12 weeks for the antibodies to appear in your blood after infestation. This is called a third generation test and is considered outdated.
HIV antibody / antigen test
This is a blood test conducted to figure out whether or not the body’s immune system has developed antibodies to fight HIV type 1 and 2 as well as antigens of the HIV virus.
This is a fourth-generation test that replaced the third generation. Usually, the body takes some time to produce the antibody whereas P24 antigens are part of the HIV virus. Thus, if the person is infected with HIV, the P24 antigen will be present in the blood even though the level of antibodies is not very high.
HIV RNA test
Unlike the previous tests, the RNA test looks for genetic material that causes HIV. Hence, this test helps in early detection, as early as 9-11 days, of HIV.
All pregnant women should take the HIV test. This will not only help in the proper detection and treatment but prevents the virus from transmitting from mother to child.
If you test positive for HIV, you should immediately start HIV treatment. The HIV treatment options available are antiretroviral therapy and medications which prevent the HIV virus from multiplying.
Treatment without insurance
You can find treatments for HIV across the United States, and the Ryan White Program is a good option. The Ryan White Program is for patients with HIV/AIDS who have no health insurance or who cannot afford the medical services required for HIV/AIDS.
Is the HIV treatment working?
A doctor will monitor blood levels of the virus (viral load) and immune cells to analyze how your body is responding to the HIV treatment.
The personalized HIV drug-cocktail is effective if it is able to lower a patient’s viral load to levels that cannot be detected in the blood. It is important to note that these undetectable levels do not signify that the patient is cured of HIV. It means that the viral levels in a patient’s blood have decreased enough to be undetected in testing.
HIV attacks the cells of the immune system. Declining immune cell numbers indicate that HIV treatment is not working for the patient. However, a stable count indicates that the treatment is effective for the patient.
For more information
The best way to prevent the onset of an STD and HIV is to protect yourself from exposure. For more information, you can book an appointment with a member of our team.