HIV is among the most dreaded sexually transmitted diseases. When we first became aware of its existence in the early 1980s, this viral infection became notorious for its high mortality and its relative ease of transmission.
Although it took time, we finally got a handle on both the spread of HIV as a global epidemic and the management of the illness in infected individuals by 1995. The public health education campaigns as well as the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) cut both the mortality and the incidence of the virus significantly.
However, the fight against HIV is still far from over. It remains among one of the few sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that medicine can't cure and that requires lifelong, regular treatment .
Because many early HIV infections can be relatively asymptomatic, and because of the stigma and fear surrounding this virus, most of the transmission is done by undiagnosed individuals . This is why empowering routine HIV testing in all sexually active individuals, and especially those who engage in riskier intercourse or use intravenous drugs, is the only way to further reduce the spread of HIV.
In this article, we explore the top 7 reasons why HIV testing is important , and share some tips on the most convenient and accessible ways to get tested.
The most important reason why HIV testing is important is, of course, to stay healthy. In the case of a positive result, this means starting antiretroviral therapy (ART) as early on as possible in the infection.
The earlier the treatment begins, the higher the natural defenses of the body (CD4 cell count) and the more effective the actual treatment. If the ART regimen is started during the acute stage of the infection, odds are that the viral load can be durably suppressed or even reduced to undetectable levels.
On the other hand, if an infected person avoids getting tested for whatever reason, rejecting the possibility that they might be infected, they may:
Previously, doctors would only start treatment when the viral load would exceed certain numbers or the CD4 cell count would fall below a particular threshold. However, nowadays, the recommendation is to start the treatment immediately upon diagnosis to help prevent HIV-related health issues.
This is why it's paramount to be aware of a positive status as early as possible.
It makes sense to assume that most people's first HIV test is out of a concern that they may have gotten infected. We've all been there — carried away by the moment, perhaps in an inebriated state of mind, or the condom breaks despite our best intention to protect ourselves.
We ask our partner if they are clean, and they say that they should be, but their last test was a while ago… or maybe they never got tested in the first place. The worm of suspicion burrows deep into our minds as we anxiously wait for the few 'window' months to pass so we can get reliable information on whether we're infected or not.
Once we do get tested, the time it takes to get the results back feels like it's deliberately moving slow. Finally, we enter the doctor's office, or get that dreaded email notification, pushing through a small heart attack before we learn that we're negative.
Sadly, the state of sexual education around the world is not at a level of creating populations adequately informed about the transmission risks, features, and treatability of STIs. HIV is routinely taunted as the deadliest disease known to man, which we can get from a single contact with an infected person's blood or genitalia.
For this reason, this little pre-result heart attack and the period of anxiety that precedes the testing are the ways most of us actually get to learn about HIV. The research that we do during this timeframe, while it is knowledge we should have actually been given by our educational institutions, is knowledge better learned late than never.
It is the knowledge we need to protect ourselves more mindfully moving forward, and knowledge that will hopefully get us to do HIV tests routinely, not out of fear, but out of a state of informed awareness and desire to stay healthy.
If every sexually active adult, and especially those who engage in riskier intercourse with less-known partners or in intravenous drug use, would get regularly tested, the HIV epidemic would never have reached the proportions it did.
It's estimated that about 80% of new HIV infections are transmitted by undiagnosed individuals. Many of these transmissions happen unintentionally, by relatively symptomless carriers; others take place when symptomatic carriers delay or avoid testing themselves out of fear or rejection of the possibility that they might be infected.
While getting the test would not reverse the infection in the carrier, most of these secondary infections would be eliminated if testing were as much of a norm for those exposed to risky contacts as much as it is their ethical obligation.
It's important to understand that, if there is a chance that we may have been infected, our capacity for care needs to expand from ourselves to the entire human race. At that moment, our duty to test becomes a higher goal of protecting our community and contributing to maintaining public health on the whole.
HIV is certainly one of the most infamous STIs; however, it's hardly the only one, and getting tested for it often means getting tested for a variety of infections that we may or may not know much about.
Every sexually active adult should be informed about the nature, symptoms, and treatability of STIs such as chlamydia, gonorhea, HPV, HSV, hepatitis C, ureaplasma, mycoplasma, syphilis, genital fungi, and others. While HIV itself is relatively rare, many of these are extremely common, and often symptomless, meaning that they are easily passed around without awareness.
As such, an STI panel test taken from an initial intention to test for HIV may reveal to you that you've been an asymptomatic carrier of an infection (or that that itch or smell wasn't HIV after all but something you can eliminate with proper treatment), and encourage you to learn more about STIs and inform your recent partner(s) to get tested and treated as well.
So you meet an attractive person, hit it off, and decide you'd like to get intimate with them. You talk about each other's sexual health and discover that they haven't been tested in a while and they don't always use protection.
What would definitely kill the buzz at that moment would be a visit to a clinic to do a quick HIV screening. Luckily, you have a few at home rapid HIV self test kits handy, and, with your partner's consent and a quick finger prick or mouth swab sample, within 15min you both know their HIV status in the most awkward-free way possible.
And why do you have HIV self test kits handy? Because it's only responsible that you do — they are extremely reliable (after the 3 month 'window' period), affordable, easy to do, and return results rapidly, exactly for scenarios like this one.
Order a rapid HIV self test kit today and receive it securely and discreetly tomorrow in most European countries.
If you've been dating a special someone for a while, and would like to be able to stop using protection and start being exclusive with them, it's recommended that you both do an HIV test if you've been with other people without protection in the last 3 months and your last test was more than 3 months ago.
Getting tested is the only way to make sure that you can safely enjoy intimacy with them without concerns about getting infected. The most convenient and least uncomfortable way to go about this would be to use an at home HIV self test kit , which analyzes saliva or blood for HIV antibodies.
Of course, HIV is not the only STI to be concerned about, but it is one of the rare few that pose a real danger and don’t have a cure as of yet. This is why it’s also recommended to not just check for HIV but to do a full STI panel test before deciding to discontinue condom use.
HIV infection is among the standard tests for women planning to get pregnant or for those who have already conceived. This is because HIV can pass through the placenta and infect the baby during pregnancy, or during labor through the mother’s blood or other fluids once the amniotic sac ruptures.
Sadly, many future mothers first learn that they are HIV positive during pregnancy. However, with proper management, these women can suppress their viral loads to undetectable levels and have a safe vaginal delivery. In recent years, both the United States and Europe have seen a steep decline in perinatal HIV transmission to 1% or less.
The goal now is to bring the number down to under 1 infection per 100,000 births. This can be achieved with diligent application of universal HIV prenatal testing, antiretroviral therapy (ART), scheduled C-section delivery for those with elevated viral loads, appropriate ART for infants, and avoidance of breastfeeding.
Among the primary reasons why more people don't get regularly tested for HIV are the inconvenience, fear, or shame involved with visiting a clinic or hospital and giving one's name and blood for the test.
However, HIV testing has become much more accessible over the last few years with the mass availability of highly reliable, rapid, easy to use at home HIV self test kits. These tests only require a drop of blood or a sample of saliva, and the results are ready within 15-20min.
Having a self test kit handy at all times provides peace of mind and quick results any time they are needed. Click the button below to browse HIV self-test kits in our Webshop and order yours today.
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