Getting Tested

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Why should I be tested for HIV?

1. Early intervention means a healthier life
The key to living a healthy life with HIV is being diagnosed early. Getting into the care of an HIV specialist is an essential part of staying healthy when you have HIV. If you get tested and the result states you have HIV, you should be referred to an HIV specialist or an ART centre. There are drugs called antiretrovirals that can help to slow down the virus and maintain your immune system but if these are started too late they might not work. HIV+ people that follow a good diet and lifestyle and are on antiretroviral treatment (ART) can lead a long and healthy life, up to 40 years according to the latest study.

2. Knowing your status protects you and other people
If you know that you are HIV positive, you can take steps to protect other people, including your partner. For example, by practicing safe sex (i.e Consistent condom use) and informing you past sexual partners.

3. Knowing your status allows you to make informed decisions
Knowing your status allows you to make informed decisions regarding your future and your life. You can still get married and form a family if you have HIV and women living with HIV can still get pregnant. Knowing your status will allow you to take the right steps to protect your partner and children now and in the future.

4. Know your status… and get the most from your doctor visits
When you’re not feeling well, your doctor will be better able to treat you if he has all the facts. If he knows your status, he can address the special needs your HIV demands. . And it’s up to you to get the most of your doctor visits, ask questions and make you sure you get all the information you need.

AVERT has more information about testing and learning if you are positive.

Before being tested, it’s a good idea to talk to your friends or family. You can also talk to an HIV test counselor without committing to taking the test. Here are some questions to consider regarding testing:

 

Do you have reason to think you might be infected?

If you think you have been exposed to HIV, you should be tested. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you ever had “unprotected” sex (sex without a condom or other latex barrier)–oral, vaginal, or anal?
  • Have you ever had sex with someone who was an IV drug user or had HIV?
  • Have you ever had a sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphillis or hepatitis?
  • Have you ever had an unplanned pregnancy?
  • Have you ever been sexually assaulted (raped, forced or talked into having sex when you didn’t want to)?
  • Have you ever passed out or forgotten what happened after you were drinking or getting high?
  • Have you ever shared needles or other equipment to inject drugs or pierce the skin?
  • Have you ever received a blood transfusion?
  • Did your mother have HIV when you were born?

 

Testing is also recommended if:

  • You think you may have been exposed to the HIV.
  • You are sexually active (3 or more sexual partners in the last 12 months)
  • You received a blood transfusion between 1977 and 1985, or a sexual partner received a transfusion and later tested positive for HIV
  • You are uncertain about your sexual partner’s risk behaviors
  • You are a male who has had sex without a condom with another male at any time
  • Any of your male sexual partners has had sex with another male without a condom
  • You are a health care worker with direct exposure to blood on the job
  • You are pregnant. There are now treatments that can greatly reduce the risk that a pregnant woman who has HIV will give the virus to her baby
  • You are a woman who wants to make sure you are not infected with HIV before getting pregnant. Even if you have no risk factors for HIV infection, you may still want to get tested to ease your own mind. This also encourages everyone to be more responsible about HIV transmission.

 

Remember that even if you are in a monogamous relationship you may still be at risk. Ensure that you take a HIV test before proceeding with unprotected sexual activities.

 

What is an HIV antibody test?

An antibody test is one type of HIV test, it is generally the type of test used in India and many other countries. In Pune, the tests usually offered are ELISA and Tridot. They have the same level of accuracy but Tridot is cheaper and faster than ELISA. Western Blot antibody test is often used for confirmation.

An antibody test shows whether a person has been infected with HIV. The test looks for HIV antibodies in a person’s blood. When HIV enters a person’s body, special chemicals are produced, which are known as antibodies. Antibodies are the body’s response to an infection. So if a person has HIV antibodies in their blood, it means they have been infected with HIV (an exception is the case of an HIV negative baby born to a positive mother, who will retain the mother’s antibodies for some months).

The HIV antibodies take time to appear in detectable amounts in a person’s body which is why an antibody test should usually be done at 3 months. Antibodies can be produced up to 6 months after infection which is why we also suggest a second test at 6 months if the first one was negative. Depending on the clinic, the test results can take from thirty minutes up to three weeks.

How is the HIV antibody test done?

When you attend to get tested you will see a doctor, trained counsellor, nurse or health care worker in private. He or she will explain what the test involves and what the result means (pre-test counseling). A small sample of blood will then be taken and then analysed in laboratory tests. The test is completely confidential and your personal doctor will not be notified of the results without your permission. If the result of the test is positive (HIV+), a second test is usually conducted to confirm this first result. If the result is negative (HIV-), you might be ask to come back at a later date for another test. The second test is often done 6 months after the possible exposure to HIV (keeping in mind you have not had unprotected sex or any other behaviour that puts you at risk for HIV during those 6 months).

The test results from an HIV test are normally only given in person – not over the phone or sent by letter.

When you get your results back, the doctor, nurse or counsellor should give you post-test counseling during which they will discuss your results. If your results show you are HIV+, you will be referred to a centre where you can get regular counseling and treatment. See our list of partners that provide treatment and counseling or referrals.

You should always receive both pre-test and post-test counseling when you get tested for HIV.


What is a p24 antigen test?

A p24 antigen test is a type of HIV test. It is mainly used to screen blood supplies but in some places it is used for testing individuals. The p24 antigen is a protein that is part of HIV. During the first few weeks after someone becomes infected with HIV, p24 is produced in excess and can be detected in the blood serum. Because the p24 test can detect HIV infection before the HIV antibody test can, it is used for diagnosing HIV early in the course of infection. It is usually recommended that this test is taken 2-3 weeks after possible exposure to HIV. It is a very expensive test however and is rarely used for general testing. In many places in India, such as Pune, this test remains generally unavailable.

How long must I wait for my results?

Depending on the test used and where it is done, it can take anything from a few minutes, to a few weeks to get the result back. You should ask your doctor at the time of testing how long the results will take.
Can anyone find out your test results?

This depends on whether the test is anonymous or confidential. If you are tested anonymously, your name is not recorded and no one can get access to your test results. Confidential testing means that your name and test results are linked, and will not be made public, but may be reported to health departments or become part of your medical record. In some areas, your HIV status can be made known to previous or current sex partners without your permission. Since the rules differ from state to state and from country to country, ask if the results are confidential before you get tested.

Do you need permission from a parent or guardian to be tested?

In some places, minors may not be tested without permission from a parent or guardian. You need to contact your local testing centre for more information.

I have seen ‘instant HIV tests’ being sold in the internet- are these recommended?

Using an HIV test kit at home means that the results are learned on the spot without any counselling. Test results that are HIV+ must be confirmed by further testing at a clinic. We don’t recommend tests sold over the internet because the source and therefore the quality of the test is not guaranteed and one should never undergo an HIV test without receiving pre and post-test counseling.

 

Further information:
http://hivinsite.ucsf.edu/insite?page=basics-00-17
http://www.ucsfhealth.org/adult/medical_services/infect/hiv/HIVtesting.html

 

For a full list of the places to get tested in Pune please go to this