Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing determines whether you are infected with HIV. HIV is a virus that weakens your immune system and can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
HIV tests can check for antibodies that your immune system produces in reaction to the HIV infection. AN HIV antibody test is only accurate three months after exposure, because this is how long it takes your body to produce enough antibodies for it to show up in a test. Other HIV tests look for evidence of the virus in the body. Recently developed tests can produce results in minutes.
HIV testing is the only way to know for sure if you have HIV, and knowing your status means you can keep yourself and your sexual partners healthy. In addition, being diagnosed early gives you a better chance of living a long and healthy life, while allowing you to take control of your health.
You should have an HIV test if you:
- have had unprotected sex
- have had multiple sex partners
- have recently been diagnosed with another STI
- have shared needles or other injecting equipment
- are worried about HIV and want to put your mind at ease
If you are sexually active, it’s good to get into the habit of regularly testing for HIV.
HIV Positive Medical Support
If your result is positive or ‘reactive’, you will need to give a blood sample to have your results confirmed.
For most people, receiving a positive diagnosis can be a shocking and emotional experience – this is completely normal. Your doctor is there to support you and to answer any questions that you have.
If you do have HIV, being diagnosed at an early stage will allow you access to treatment, allowing you to live a longer and healthier life. You can start taking antiretroviral drugs immediately, which will reduce the amount of HIV in your body and protect your immune system from damage. And with the correct treatment and care, those living with HIV can expect to live as long as the average person. Reducing the levels of HIV in your body also make it less likely that you will pass HIV in to your partner. In fact some people will find that the virus becomes undetectable in their system with treatment – this means that the HIV does not show up in normal blood tests.
Although there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, treatments have come a long way and provide an improved and extended quality of life for most, meaning a near normal life expectancy. Remember that HIV is now a manageable illness – the earlier you begin treatment, the healthier you can stay, while also preventing the onset of AIDS.
How to get your Pep Prescription
Post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, is an emergency treatment for HIV, to be taken after possible exposure to HIV to prevent infection. It’s a short four-week course of antiretroviral drugs that can stop HIV infection if taken properly. PEP is most effective at preventing HIV infection if you take it within 24 hours of exposure. The most important thing is to make sure you take PEP within the 72-hour window. It’s important to get tested after using PEP, to make sure the treatment was successful. You should test 3 months after potential exposure, and again 6 months after.
PEP is not taken if you already have HIV, or as a regular form of HIV prevention. If you face a prolonged risk of HIV, for example if your partner is living with HIV or if you regularly have sex without a condom with multiple partners, PrEP is a better choice for you.
PEP is only is available from doctors or the emergency department of a hospital. The Queer Wellness Centre will be able to prescribe Pep should you require it.