The Importance of HIV Testing
HIV Syndrome is the name given to the earliest stages of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). Symptoms of this STD can be very similar to other diseases such as mononucleosis which include fever, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, decreased appetite, sore throat, joint and muscle aches, diarrhea and rash. A doctor can tell if you have an HIV infection because it takes over white blood cells called CD4 lymphocytes and duplicates itself. There will be an increase in antibodies and T-cells which your body creates to try and stop new HIV cells from forming. If your doctor finds high levels of HIV RNA in your blood they can determine that you have been infected. AIDS develops from the latter stages of HIV as the immune system deteriorates causing your CD4 cell count to be 200 or less per mL. The time between the initial HIV infection to the development of full-blown AIDS can vary from a few months to as long as 17 years.
HIV testing is so important because early diagnosis and treatment can substantially slow down the advancement of this disease. Information is the key with a disease like hivaids. There is currently no cure for HIV, but with early detection and treatment you can slowdown the progression. The proper medications can fight the virus and keep your immune system strong. Also, if you are tested early you can reduce the likelihood of transmitting the disease to others. This disease is transmitted through sexual contact with people that are infected, infected women who are pregnant can give it to their unborn children, or by sharing drug needles. It cannot be transmitted through casual contact such as sharing towels, swimming pools, toilet seats or telephones. It is very unlikely to transmit HIV through saliva, unless it has been contaminated with blood.
Testing for HIV is a two-step process that consists of a preliminary test and a Western blot test. The preliminary tests can vary from EIA tests which test the presence of antibodies in the blood, Rapid tests that can provide results in approximately 20 minutes and home blood tests. If your preliminary tests are negative, you should retake the test 3 months later, because it can take time for the antibodies to be detected. If you feel that you may have contracted the disease, but your first test was negative, it is important to not have sex until you take the second test. You could spread the disease to your partner if a later test proves positive. If you are a drug user it is extremely critical that you stop sharing needles. This is true whether you have HIV or not, because you are at an extreme risk of contracting this disease if you continue sharing needles. There are many clean needle exchange programs throughout the United States that can provide you with needles that have not been contaminated.
If you are a man or woman that is at risk of contracting HIV, regular testing for HIV and other STD’s is extremely important. The sooner you know if you have contracted a disease the sooner you can start receiving treatments that can prolong your life. Your health care provider can help you find support groups and services to help you through this diagnosis.