A walkthrough of getting tested

So you're going to get tested. Or at least you're thinking about it. Fantastic. This is what you should know.

Learn as much as you can before you go. For instance, the HIV and AIDS 101 section is your "universal bible" that you must familiarize yourself with, and take to heart. You were probably stunned when you checked out the risk assessment section, and you need to keep in mind that anyone who has unprotected sex can get it, but also know that you are just one among many who are in this situation. Now, you may feel troubled or confused if you think that you have been exposed to HIV. If you have any doubts at all about your HIV status, relieve your worries. Take a HIV test to find out.

Prepared? Awesome. You've decided to know your HIV status, and that's empowerment! Right now rapid HIV tests are being offered for free at different testing centers, social hygiene clinics and treatment hubs all around the Philippines. On this site you can find main testing locations, which we highly recommend that you check out. You can find the one closest to you, or farthest away if that makes it easier. Some prefer not to visit the clinic closest to them because they are afraid of being recognized, and instead choose to visit a clinic farther away, sometimes in another city. The most important thing is that you are concerned about your health.

Remember that you have complete confienditality when you take a HIV test - under R.A. 8504 - Phil. AIDS Prevention Act Rule 7 of Sec.41 on "Medical Confidentiality" it is against the law for your health provider or counselor to disclose your status to anyone. Trust your counselor, otherwise, they won't be of any help or service to you.

So you're ready for the test. It's commonly known as VCT - Voluntary Counseling and Testing. This is how Social Hygiene Clinics process a HIV test. Take note that this is not a private clinic or a private hospital and you may need patience. Sometimes it is crowded in the waiting area, but it is completely free, whereas it may cost money to take a test in a private clinic or hospital. The Social Hygiene Clinics also provide health care professionals that have gone through training tailored to the universal standard guidelines of UN protocol in terms of handling HIV and AIDS care. You'll be surprised to see that these health care workers are friendly and approachable, and a lot has changed at the local level in terms of its good services to the common people by health providers.

Inside the clinic, you will be presented a Personal Information Sheet (general information about you) and an Informed Consent Sheet (saying you voluntarily agree to the test). You'll need to fill them out, but don't have to leave your name; you can use a pseudonym or client code (patient number). Second, you'll have to fill out a Pre-HIV Test Counseling Form to assess your knowledge on HIV and AIDS and assess your risk for HIV. If it is likely that you were exposed to HIV from unprotected sex or other method of transmission, they will take a blood sample for a rapid test. The test may take about 30 minutes but the result may take up to 2 weeks to be released, because it may be sent in for confirmatory testing. While waiting, you may feel stressed or tense and your counselor may discuss with you what you will do if you are positive. Be sure to remember this conversation when you receive your results and stay optimistic.

Getting your results

You will be told to come back in about two weeks to receive your results. It may be a good idea to bring a close friend that you can trust to the get the test results. But be sure that he/she is reliable, and can be completely trusted to never disclose your HIV status to anyone. They will be there to support you if you receive a positive result and he/she will always be there for you. While your counselor can help you when you receive you result, they are busy and will need to return to work. When you return back home you will need someone that you can talk to and this close friend will be very important, especially if you decide not to tell your family.

Before you go to the clinic, think about what you will do if your test comes back positive. If you want, talk about it to your partner. This will make a possible positive result easier to share if they already know that you're going to get tested. It might even be easier for you to get tested together.

A positive result

It's okay to express your feelings for a few weeks or months, and your counselor will help you with managing your reaction. Feel free to talk to and trust them. Your counselor is the first person who will know your HIV status (it is your counselor who will hand you the result) and be the person to help you with your reaction to the result. During the Pre-Test process your counselor should have pre-conditioned you with a "what if" scenario and discussed what you would do if were positive. The good thing about having a counselor is that he/she will be there to help you in a professional manner to the best of his/her knowledge, especially if you are at a stage of trauma associated with the result, in denial or experiencing another related emotional reaction. Finally, your counselor will refer you to a specialty clinic, hospital, or Treatment Hub to check on your health status and look for other conditions.

You will be required to undergo some diagnostic laboratory tests like SBTP (related to your heart), criatinen (liver), SBOT (heart), and a chest X-ray. Once you have all these, they will take another blood sample to measure the health of your immune system by checking your CD4 count and comparing it to normal stage counts. As HIV progresses, your CD4 count will decrease, and once it is under the critical level, when you have a low CD4 count, you will be recommended to enroll in ARV treatment. They will also have to check if there is any manifestation of Opportunistic Infections (OIs) that need to be treated. If you don't have any opportunistic infections and still have a CD4 count at a normal stage you will be counseled on health behaviors for preserving your health and CD4 count. Remember to see your doctor or counselor to check your CD4 count regularly. You are absolutely fine and definitely going to live on. Enjoy each beautiful day, year after year, for all you know you may live longer than other people who are "healthy" and negative.