HIV testing - what you need to know

HIV testing - what you need to know

An HIV clinician answers some of the most common questions about testing and how you can prevent the spread of the virus. 

Blood sample positive with HIV test

The world observes HIV Testing Day on the 27th of June annually. 

HIV/ AIDS continues to take the lives of millions of people around the world. However, with treatment, prevention and healthy living, the numbers can be reduced. 

Globally, 37.7-million people were living with HIV at the end of 2020, reports the World Health Organization

HIV clinician (professional nurse) Gabaiphiwe Vena says it is crucial for everybody to test for the virus,  whether they think they are at risk or not. 

"Everybody must test and know their HIV status," says Gabaiphiwe. 

She says even those who have tested negative can still benefit from the HIV prevention medicines such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). 

"If you are negative and you would like to remain negative, we can put you on a pill called PrEP, which will help with prevention of HIV," says the HIV Clinician. 

However, it is still important to note that you cannot live a reckless life.  Abstinence (not having sex), never sharing needles, and using condoms are trusted ways to prevent HIV. 

If you are HIV positive, you should start treatment as soon as possible, before your condition gets worse. 

"One of the things that helps with being on treatment after you know your HIV status is that you prevent opportunistic disease to find their way into your compromised immune system," says Gabaiphiwe. 

This is because HIV weakens a person's immune system. This will then make it harder to fight diseases.

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Misconceptions about testing for HIV

"Most of the people are still afraid of testing and knowing their HIV status," says Gabaiphiwe.  

The clinician says some people are in denial that even when their tests come out positive, they believe the results are false. 

She adds that others believe that if they test, the results will automatically be positive. 

"They believe that just because they are testing, they will attract HIV somehow. This is not true. You cannot attract HIV by just testing. It is important that you get tested and know your HIV status. 

"If you delay, you might come at a point where other opportunistic diseases have made so much damage. So the sooner you test, the better for you," says Gabaiphiwe. 

READ: World AIDS Day: Celebrities living with HIV/AIDS

One important thing for people to note is that there is some form of professional mental preparation that is done to prepare you for whatever outcome the test might show. 

Gabaiphiwe says there is pre-counselling,  which is done during the test, and post-counselling after you receive the results.

The clinician says a history of sexual partners and those that might have been exposed to the virus will be taken into consideration. This can help to save the lives of those people in your circle who might have not known they are at risk. 

In the case that the test comes out positive, Gabaiphiwe says the person will be put on treatment immediately. 

 "They will be counselled on the treatment they are taking, the side-effects that can be there with the treatment, how do they protect themselves and the ones around them and their kids."

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