A  A  A   Print
Have You Been Screened for HIV?
December 2013

Have You Been Screened for HIV?

HIV may seem like a distant health threat—something that affects other people, but not you. Yet, you should be tested at least once for this deadly virus, according to health experts. Up to a quarter of people with HIV don't know they have it, because symptoms may not show up for years. Screening is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Facts about HIV

HIV gradually destroys the body's immune system. It specifically attacks CD4 cells. As the virus spreads, a person becomes more susceptible to infections and diseases. Eventually, he or she develops AIDS. Without treatment, AIDS typically results in death.

You can't get HIV through casual contact. It spreads through exposure to infected blood, semen, breast milk, and vaginal and rectal fluid. It's most commonly transmitted when a person has unprotected sex with an infected person. Other potential routes of infection include sharing contaminated drug needles, being born to a mother with the virus, or receiving tainted blood during a transfusion. 

Scientists have yet to find a cure for HIV. But early diagnosis and treatment can help slow the virus' progression. In particular, antiretroviral medications can prolong infected people's lives. It can also reduce the likelihood of infecting others.

Screening recommendations

Screening can help stop the spread of HIV by identifying people with the virus. They can then receive proper medical care, including antiretroviral therapy. Based on the latest research, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommends HIV screening at least once for people ages 15 to 65, including pregnant women.

People at high risk for HIV should consider annual or more regular testing for the virus. Groups that may benefit from more frequent testing include people with multiple sexual partners and intravenous drug users.

HIV testing is quick. It includes either a blood test or a saliva swab. Your insurance company is required by law to cover the cost. You can arrange a screening through your doctor. Or you can call your state's local HIV/AIDS hotline to find a testing site near you.

 

Take part in International AIDS Awareness Month. Expand your knowledge with this quiz.

 

Take-Home HIV Testing

HIV testing has never been easier or more confidential. You can now purchase self-testing kits over the counter. Some tests require you to send a swab of saliva or a finger prick of blood to a lab. Other kits work like a pregnancy test. They can give you results in as little as 20 minutes.

These tests detect antibodies—not HIV—in your body. Antibodies are substances that help fight infections. With HIV, it can take up to 3 months for antibodies to appear. As a result, you may have to do repeat testing, especially if you have engaged in high-risk behavior. Talk with your doctor if the test is positive. Additional blood work is needed to confirm the result.

Research has shown that at-home test kits are an acceptable and effective way to screen for HIV. One caveat: Check that the kit has been approved by the FDA to ensure accurate results. 

 

Online resources

CDC - HIV/AIDS Basics

National HIV and STD Testing Resources - HIV Testing

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - AIDS.gov

 

 
Today's Interactive Tools
Related Items

The third-party content provided in the Health Library of phoebeputney.com is for informational purposes only and is not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your physician. If you or your child has or suspect you may have a health problem, please consult your primary care physician. If you or your child may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 or other emergency health care provider immediately in the United States or the appropriate health agency of your country. For more information regarding site usage, please visit: Privacy Information, Terms of Use or Disclaimer.

Follow us online:

© 2014 Phoebe Putney Health System  |  417 Third Avenue, Albany, Georgia 31701  |  Telephone 877.312.1167

Phoebe Putney Health System is a network of hospitals, family medicine clinics, rehab facilities, auxiliary services, and medical education training facilities. Founded in 1911,
Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital (the flagship hospital) is one of Georgia's largest comprehensive regional medical centers. From the beginning, Phoebe's mission and vision
has been to bring the finest medical talent and technology to the citizens of Southwest Georgia, and to serve all citizens of the community regardless of ability to pay.