Do you fear that you have contracted HIV? It’s better to know
Taking an HIV test today is very easy. Gone are those days when you had to line up in a hospital, fasting, leave a blood sample and wait weeks to find out the result.
Even so, many people continue to avoid getting a screening test, which now only requires a drop of blood, can be administered in any setting (such as parks or public transport stations), and provides a reliable result in 20 minutes.
Knowledge is power
There can be many reasons why someone is reluctant to take an HIV test, but chief among them is the scary (and outdated) idea that the outcome will be death. And not only that, but a death linked to behaviors stigmatized by society, such as sexual relations outside of marriage, sexual relations between men, injection drug use or sex work.
Although we have been saying it for decades, it seems that it is still not clear that HIV can affect anyone, regardless of their physical characteristics, identity or socioeconomic status. This is why it is so important to gradually remove the weight that a diagnosis of this type has, so that it is easier to go to request a test and receive the necessary help in case of any result.
If the test is non-reactive (negative for HIV), you will have a certainty that will give you peace of mind, and you can take the opportunity to start a new lifestyle, where condom protection is a fundamental pillar of your sexual life.
In case the test is reactive (that is, positive for HIV), you will have another type of opportunity: start taking antiretroviral treatment as soon as possible, which has been shown to have great benefits in health status and life expectancy of people with HIV.
It is true that the positive result can be a shock, but it is preferable to clear up the doubt so that you can act accordingly, especially if this allows you to take charge of your health and self-care.
Know how to act
Since the start of the epidemic in the 1980s, people with HIV have played a very important role in their own health care. Since the infection was initially associated with already stigmatized groups in society, people found it necessary to defend their right to health at all costs, regardless of the prejudices that surrounded them.
When many medical professionals were still afraid to treat someone with HIV, the affected population informed themselves as much as possible about the infection and began to educate not only health personnel, but also health authorities and society in general about how it works. The virus in the body, what are the routes of transmission and what are the tools to protect yourself.
Thanks to this level of activism, today there are mutual support groups for people with HIV in almost every place where there is a clinic capable of treating the infection. When you are ready to go to a hospital and request medical attention, it is very likely that you will find this type of group, where they will listen to you, answer your questions and even help you with the procedures that have to be carried out.
Feeling the company, solidarity and support could help you a lot to process your diagnosis and move on with what is coming and it is very important: taking care of your own health.
Starting antiretroviral treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis will keep your immune system strong for much longer and will prevent the havoc that, to a greater or lesser extent, the virus causes from its entry into the body, which can affect the nervous system, the heart, lungs and brain, among other organs.
Also, you should know that when the antiretroviral treatment is successful and the amount of HIV in your blood drops to undetectable levels, it will be impossible for you to transmit it to other people through sexual contact. This finding, known as undetectable = non transmissible, is another of the great benefits of HIV treatment, since it not only benefits the person, but also the community.
It’s time to stop worrying and start taking care of yourself. If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV, it’s better to know. Remember that at AHF Latin America and the Caribbean we carry out free screening tests. Just come to our offices in your country or make an appointment today.