June 27 is National HIV Testing Day. Do you know your status?
What is HIV?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. The virus weakens a person’s immune system by destroying the cells that fight infections. AIDS is the most severe stage of HIV and is diagnosed when a person’s CD4 cell count (a type of cell in the immune system) falls below 200 or the person has a severe illness known as an opportunistic infection. There is not yet a definitive cure for HIV but people are living longer than ever with effective medical management.
In the United States today, about 1.1 million people are living with HIV but about 1 in 7 people do not know it. Knowing your HIV status is important because if you have the virus, medications can greatly prolong your life and help prevent transmission if taken correctly. If you are HIV negative, there are precautions to take in order to prevent transmission. The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages 13-64 get tested at least once as part of their routine medical care.
Who is more at risk for HIV?
HIV is most often transmitted sexually or from blood-to-blood contact. People who are at increased risk for HIV include:
- Men who have sex with men
- Those who have had sex with an HIV-positive partner
- People who have had sex with more than one person since their last HIV test
- Those who inject drugs and share needles with others
- People who exchange sex for drugs or money
- Those who have other sexually transmitted diseases
- People who have hepatitis or tuberculosis
- Healthcare workers who come into contact with blood and bodily fluids
How can I get tested for HIV?
Getting tested for HIV is easy and accessible. There are a few different ways to get tested. Most HIV tests are antibody tests which look for antibodies in your blood or oral fluid. However, be aware that it can take up to 3-12 weeks for antibodies to show up in your blood after HIV exposure. If you have a negative test in this window period, you should be retested 3 months after possible HIV exposure. You can buy at-home tests, which typically use an oral swab or fingerprick, at the drugstore.
You can also seek testing from a clinic, your primary care provider, a testing event, or local organization. Visit https://gettested.cdc.gov/to find fast, free, confidential testing near you!
Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma associated with HIV but getting tested and knowing your status is so important. Encourage your friends and family to do so as well. You have nothing to lose, so go get tested today! You may just save a life!
Check out the CDC for a lot of great information regarding HIV and prevention!
Disclaimer: The content of this post is not to substitute for medical advice. If you think you are having a medical problem, please contact your physician/provider.