March 2, 2012
Should I get tested?
If you have participated in any of these activities that might have exposed you to the virus, or have any doubts about your status, you should get tested.
- If you or your partner have unprotected sex
- If you or your partner have multiple sex partners
- If you have had sex with a sex worker
- If you have had an STI
- Injected drugs, shared needles, or syringes
- Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant from an unreliable source
What is an HIV test?
The most common HIV test is called the antibody or ELISA test, which consists of testing a small sample of blood for HIV antibodies. The body produces these antibodies in response to the HIV infection. Because the body requires at least three months to produce the HIV antibodies, even once an individual is infected, the test results will appear negative until the antibodies are produced, while the person may be positive and infectious. During this window period, if you believe you have been exposed or have engaged in risky behaviors you should abstain from any behaviors that could infect others (unsafe sex or drug use). For this reason, HIV tests should be taken every six months to provide for window periods. An HIV test usually takes two weeks to be processed, but some clinics are now offering test results that can be obtained in less than an hour. A more accurate test would be Fourth Generation Test and PCR test which tests for HIV itself, not the antibodies produced in response. While this test is more accurate, it is only used when a previous exposure to HIV is almost certain, or a person tests positive and is tested for confirmation.
Why is it important to know my status?
The only way to know your HIV status is to take an HIV test. If you have engaged in any of the risky behaviors or believe that you have been exposed to HIV in the past, you should take an HIV test. Your HIV status, whether it is negative or positive, is important to know.
If you're positive, the earlier you know your status the earlier you can begin to educate yourself and change small things in your life that could go a long way in protecting you in the future. Knowing that you're positive can help you better manage the disease and slow its progression by taking care of yourself. Also with a positive result you can start using safer sex practices, such as using condoms, to prevent the spread of HIV to others.
A negative result can relieve your doubts, and once you educate yourself, you'll have a pretty good chance of staying so. Staying negative requires consistent behaviors, like using condoms, but can also allow you the peace of mind that you have the power to keep yourself negative. Being negative now does not mean you'll remain negative for the rest of your life either. Even after you have tested negative, a test is recommended every six months regardless if you participate in risky behaviors.
Get a testing buddy, a friend that you can get tested with every six months. Or sign up for our reminder email every six months, to remind you to take your test. It's like a dentist appointment or seeing your doctor. A two hour test every six months can mean the rest of your life.
People cannot know your HIV status without your consent, and HIV testing is completely voluntary and if requested, anonymous. An HIV test is very inexpensive, and is currently being offered for free by the Philippine government in most tertiary hospitals and in HIV testing centers.