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June 27th is National HIV Testing Day

Few diseases have had the impact on American society as the HIV outbreak of the 80s. We have since learned a lot about the disease, and there’s much more information available on HIV now than in the past. Here are a few stats: there are over 1.2 million living with HIV in the US, with about 45,000 new diagnoses made a year. 

You probably know by now that HIV is an incurable disease. However, treatment has come a long way. It’s estimated that 1-in-8 are unaware they are infected with the virus. This is very serious because HIV can be passed unknowingly from one person to the next. If left untreated, HIV is a very threatening disease that may very well be fatal. The virus attacks white blood cells and makes the body vulnerable to diseases that could ordinarily be fought off.  

There’s only one way to be 100% certain a person is not infected with the disease – HIV testing. Whether or not you actively participate in high-risk activities for HIV, it’s better to know for sure. 

June 27th is National HIV Testing Day, and we can’t say it enough...

get tested! 

 

Types of HIV Tests

FYI, HIV tests are available at both specialty clinics and even urgent care centers - whatever is most convenient for you!

Typically, samples are sent to a lab that will then run the test.

HIV Rapid Tests (Antibody tests)

Antibody tests are among the most common type of HIV tests. These are also known as an HIV Rapid Test as the results can be determined within the 30 minutes. How it works: lab techs draw blood or take a swab of cells from the mouth, and then have the sample analyzed at the lab.

Note: it can take up to 3 months after the initial infection for a positive result – sometimes even longer. Usually if there’s a confirmation, they’ll test again just to be sure.

HIV Early Detection Tests (Combination Tests)

Combination – or early detection tests – can detect both HIV antibodies and HIV antigens in your blood. It’s the recommended test for HIV testing these days, but some practices solely run antibody tests.

 

If You Have Tested Positive for HIV or AIDS

These days, there are many more medications available to fight the advancement of the infection than in previous years. HIV medicines can keep people’s immune systems healthy for many years than we once thought possible.

Even the ability to transmit HIV to others can be reduced with medicine. HIV (ART) medication reduces the amount of HIV cells found in the blood. It’s a tactic called “viral suppression” that’s not only good for the infected person’s overall health, but it also decreases the chance of passing the virus on.The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a lot of great resources available for those with a positive HIV diagnosis.

HIV Transmission + Prevention

Aside from abstinence, the #1 way to prevent AIDS is using protection when engaging in sex. However, protection during sex isn’t foolproof, as HIV is spread through bodily fluid contact. That can mean sharing used needles with an infected person or blood-to-blood contact with an infected person can transmit the disease.

There’s an ugly stereotype that only gay men get HIV and, although that stereotype is proven to be false, gay and bisexual men who engage in unprotected sex are statistically the most at-risk populations. If two parties participate in unprotected anal sex, there’s a higher chance from passing the infection on than almost any other activity. The lining in the rectum is very thin and has the highest propensity of allowing HIV to enter the body during anal intercourse. The “receptive” partner is 13 times more likely to get infected than the male partner.  However, it is completely possible for HIV to be transmitted via vaginal sex, or heterosexual anal sex as well.

Does that mean if you have a partner with HIV, you either have to accept that you’ll contract HIV or will have to practice abstinence? Not quite. Thanks to modern medicine, there are multiple preventative measures that help fight HIV in partnerships where one party has the virus and one does not.  

  • The Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a regimen of daily HIV medicines to prevent HIV infection if you’re high risk. For example, if your partner has HIV, your doctor may recommend PrEP as a preventative measure.
  • There’s also Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) which is a regimen of HIV medications taken after potential exposure to the virus. PEP may prevent infection after engaging in a risky behavior like unprotected sex with an HIV-positive partner. Every second counts in this prevention method, so skipping pills can have serious consequences.

 

End the Stigma

 

HIV/AIDS had played a major role in American society since the 1980s. From the AIDS crisis to the development of medications that help manage HIV, we’ve come a very long way.

Anyone can get HIV, and it’s important to take precautions, as well as support people who are infected with the virus. Although HIV is a life-changing diagnosis, many people lead happy, productive lives with HIV.

Do your part to help prevent HIV and get tested. And see what your city or local municipality is doing to celebrate National HIV Testing Day on June 27th.

 

 

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