How often should I get tested for HIV?

No-one wants to think about HIV, much less talk about it and get tested. In today’s modern society, however, more people than imagined are tested for “human immunodeficiency virus” or HIV, as it is more commonly known. When caught in the early stages, HIV can be controlled, but if left too late, it can progress into full-blown AIDS, “acquired immunodeficiency syndrome”, which does kill its victims. That is the predominant reason for being tested for HIV, to avoid the excruciating stages of AIDS. And, there are many ways to contract the virus, so more people should be asking the question, “How often should I get tested for HIV?”.

Although most people associate AIDS with people who have engaged in various sex practices, or addicts who share dirty needles, the reality is many other people today contract the virus that can lead to AIDS. Anyone who has had a routine blood transfusion as part of an operation or surgical procedure can be affected with tainted blood. Moreover, anyone who is exposed to tainted blood can be infected. Open cuts and sores attract viruses, and people who work in fields that handle blood generally wear gloves to protect themselves. And, pregnant women who have tested positive for HIV can pass it on to their babies. Realistically, everyone is at risk and as a result, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommends “testing as part of your routine medical care”. Some insurance companies have mandated HIV testing as part of their screening process when applying for heath coverage.

Since testing is somewhat mainstream now, it makes you wonder how often you should be tested. Certainly, the frequency of testing will depend upon the reason for testing. For individuals who insist on engaging in unprotected sex, the medical community suggests yearly testing. In addition, it recommends testing for men who have had relations with men, women who have had unprotected relations (either vaginal, anal or oral) with more than one partner since the last time tested, and those individuals who have already been diagnosed with another sexually transmitted disease. Doctors will usually recommend testing if someone has been diagnosed with hepatitis, syphilis or tuberculosis. Likewise, if patients have indicated that they had relations with someone in this category, testing is urged.

For patients who have been contacted by health authorities, testing will be completed as scheduled. There are several reasons why someone might be contacted by letter to undergo HIV testing. A hospital, whose officials now believe that tainted blood was used doing surgical procedures, will notify all patients of the risk of infection, and advise them to go for testing. Also, if one person has tested positive, then that person may provide the names of previous sexual partners in order to notify them of their risks. In this case, those persons may receive a letter instructing them to go for testing.

One point that is important to know when deciding to get tested for HIV is that it is not always advisable to go when you first believe you have been in contact with the virus. Typically, the antibodies to the virus, that need to be present in the body to detect HIV, can take as long as two weeks to six months to form. Some experts suggest that tests be done after three months, but you should really contact your health care provider immediately to have him/her help you with the decision. Seeking medical attention as soon as possible drastically reduces the chances of HIV leading to AIDS.

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