It is National HIV Testing Day and I want to bring some awareness to the topic. 1.2 million Americans have HIV. Astonishingly, 1 in 8 infected people do not know they have HIV! Not knowing you have contracted HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) puts you and your partner at serious risk but it is easier now, more than ever, to get HIV testing.
The first test is a screening test done with a blood draw or an oral swab. The oral swab provides instant results, but it takes some time to detect a positive result after you have contracted the virus, so you should repeat testing in 6 months. Blood tests are sent to a lab so your results may take a few days, but they are able to detect the disease earlier after contraction. The initial HIV test is a screening, it is highly sensitive but not specific. Highly sensitive means that it will catch most positive patients. It also means there will be some false positives which is why it is less specific.
Any screening that is positive goes for confirmatory testing. There are three follow-up tests: 1) HIV-1 nucleic acid which tests for the RNA, 2) determination of infection with HIV-1 or HIV-2, and 3) western blot and imunofluorescense. If your initial test is an oral swab, you will have a blood test for confirmation. If you had an initial blood draw, the lab usually automatically sends it for confirmation before posting positive results.
Where to go
There are several ways to get the initial screening test: you can go to any doctors office or medical facility, the CDC offers an online search for free testing, and there are now home kits you can purchase online or at most pharmacy’s. People are often too scared to get tested, but it is important to get diagnosed as early as possible. Once you test positive, you can immediately start medications. There is no cure, nor is there a vaccine, but treatment for suppressing the virus is very effective when taken appropriately.