HIV or AIDS is a name that is both well-known and dreaded. HIV is incorporated as a basic test run in all hospitals before undergoing surgery, giving blood or even having a baby. Here are all the things you should know concerning getting tested for HIV. Who all should get tested for HIV? When should one get tested? If you are HIV positive, what should be done?
There are tests to find out if you are infected by the virus. If yes, it takes a long and variable amount of time for AIDS disease to develop and shut down your immune system with as long as 10 years. But knowing that you are HIV +ve can prompt early treatment and prolonging life. A separate program dedicated just for HIV control has been set up in India called the National AIDS Control Organization or NACO.
Getting tested is the ultimate method to combat the disease as you can take steps to protect your health and get on antiviral therapy ART if required. This way you also have less chances of spreading it to others by taking adequate precaution and ART reduces risk of giving it to your partner sexually.
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.
Most HIV tests are antibodies tests that measure the amount of presence of antibodies within the body and therefore there are various HIV test types. Most people develop detectable antibodies within 2 to 8 weeks so there are chances that the initial tests may have negative results.
To confirm whether a person is HIV positive, a series of three blood tests need to be done in half-an-hour, including Coombs, SD bioline and Sigma tests. There are also other types of test kits such as Quickcheck, Elisa, Western Blot Tests as prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO). However, most private centres furnish reports after conducting a single test (Tri Dot test), which is not foolproof and people end up being declared HIV positive when they are not. Such wrong diagnosis can lead to disastrous consequences
Some private clinics may conduct only one test, which can be misleading. It is government mandate to conduct 3 tests.
When to get tested
However it takes around 3 months for a person to make antibodies to the virus after getting exposed, and the test can come falsely negative during this window period. So if the event of exposure occurred in less than that it’s better to get re tested after 3 months.
Few tests are available to check for HIV positive after 24 hrs. 1 week and 1 month after the encounter.
What happens if I test positive?
Definitive cure for AIDS is yet to be discovered. However, some medicines, given at certain stages of the disease, depending upon the CD4 count in the blood of the patient, can prolong the life of HIV positive persons. Consult a HIV specialist or venereologist/dermatologist for more treatment options.
How do I know if I need to get tested?
If you have unprotected sex, having sex with multiple partners, commercial sex workers, men who have sex with other men, injecting drugs or sharing needles receiving multiple blood transfusions. Pregnant women should get tested as early as possible in their pregnancy, to reduce risk of transmitting it to their baby. Health workers who get needle stick injury and exposure from already positive patient need to get tested as soon as possible, and since it takes a few weeks for test to work, take prophylactic treatment meanwhile.