On June 27, we observe National HIV Testing Day, which is a perfect time to raise awareness about getting tested for HIV. Having an HIV test is a smart move because early detection and treatment can lead to a longer, healthier life for people with HIV.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) spreads through contact with the blood, semen, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, or breast milk of an HIV-infected person. HIV attacks and destroys your immune system, which makes it harder for your body to fight off infection and disease.
When HIV infection advances to a very serious stage, it can develop into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which can be fatal.
Fortunately, early detection and treatment with antiretroviral therapy (ART) drugs can help people with HIV preserve their health and avoid getting AIDS. People taking ART medications can live a relatively healthy life for many years.
Although 1.1 million Americans carry HIV in their blood, about 14% of them don’t know they’re infected. If you have HIV, it’s best to know about it, so you can start treatment as soon as possible. Dr. Choudhary recommends HIV testing if you meet any of the following criteria:
You’ve never been tested before.
Everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should get tested at least once, even if you don’t engage in risky behavior. If you do have a high risk of infection, Dr. Choudhary may recommend that you be tested every year or more frequently.
You have sex with more than one partner or exchange sex for money.
Condoms reduce the chances that HIV will spread during sexual activity. However, even if you do use a condom, you could still get HIV if you have sex with an infected partner. HIV can spread through any kind of sexual activity — oral, vaginal, or anal.
Your sex partner has HIV or is at risk of HIV infection.
This is especially important if you don’t regularly use a condom while having sex. Even if you don’t engage in risky behaviors, you could get HIV if your partner does.
You’re a sexually active man who is gay or bisexual.
Although anyone can get infected with HIV, gay and bisexual men account for about 70% of new HIV infections.
You inject drugs or exchange sex for drugs.
HIV can spread if you share needles, syringes, or other types of drug equipment with infected people.
You have hepatitis, tuberculosis, or a sexually transmitted infection such as syphilis.
Having certain types of health conditions or infections makes you more vulnerable to HIV.
You’re pregnant or are planning to get pregnant.
Women with HIV risk passing it on to their babies. However, taking HIV medications during pregnancy can dramatically reduce the risk of mother-to-baby transmission. It’s a good idea to be tested for HIV before each pregnancy, or as early as possible after you find out you’re pregnant.
You have been sexually assaulted.
If this happens, you should be tested immediately. A drug regimen known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) may prevent HIV infection.
You have any other concerns about HIV.
Dr. Choudhary understands that thinking about HIV can cause stress and anxiety. A desire for peace of mind is a good enough reason to be tested.
If HIV testing finds the virus in your body, Dr. Choudhary will talk with you about starting ART medications. He’ll also share information about protecting your partner, taking good care of your health, and getting any support you may need.
Don’t put it off. If you’re near the Lansdowne area of Virginia, schedule an HIV test today by calling us at the Infectious Diseases Tropical Medicine & Travel Clinic. Or simply click the button on the website to use online booking.