Know your HIV/AIDS Status

There are many reasons for wanting to get yourself checked out for HIV. The obvious one is that you’ve had sex – and now the afterglow has worn off you’re worried you may have got more than you bargained for. Or maybe you’re starting a new relationship, or have found out that you’re not your partner’s one and only. Or you shared an unsterilized needle or blade. Or you just got a tattoo in a shop in which you have doubts about the instruments.

The first step is taking an HIV/AIDS test. The test checks your blood for traces of HIV antibodies. If there are, then that means the virus is there. A blood test is the only way to be sure of your HIV status. Before you get tested, make sure you talk to a counselor – it’s your right! Know what to expect and think about how you will deal with the results.

Due to the ‘window period’, it is advised that you get tested every three to six months. Now, the window period is the time between when you get infected with HIV and when your body starts making antibodies to fight off the virus. So, if you get tested during this period, the result could come up as HIV negative (this is called a false negative) when you actually have the virus – that’s why you’ve got to be smart about this whole testing thing. Antibodies usually become detectable four to six weeks after infection. That’s why if you get tested within three months of having unprotected sex, you need to get tested again three months later to be extra sure.

The whole point of taking an HIV test is find out whether or not you have the virus. Having the virus means that you are HIV+ (HIV positive) and will have to make changes in your life. Not having the virus means you’re HIV negative, which doesn’t mean you get a free pass… you need to Make YOUR Move to ensure you STAY HIV free.

If you know your HIV status, there’s a lot you can do. For example, if you’re negative, you can STAY NEGATIVE by abstaining from sex or, if you’re already sexually active, by sticking to one partner and ALWAYS using a condom. If you’re HIV positive – and sexually active – you MUST still always use a condom to protect your partner from infection, and yourself from repeat infections that could hasten the onset of Aids. You can take measures to boost your immune system, like healthy eating and exercise, and early treatment for secondary infections. Although there is no cure for HIV/Aids, drugs to treat Aids are available and can enable HIV+ individuals to live normal, active lives for many years. With proper treatment, HIV can be managed like any other chronic disease for a long time.

If you are worried about the cost, you shouldn’t be. The test is done for free in Government clinics. You can go to a good private laboratory or get a home kit at a pharmacy to do it yourself BUT it is advised that someone does it for you especially someone you trust because you can get good advice and counseling once tested positive.