The idea of an HIV diagnosis strikes fears into the hearts of many sexually active people. There is still no cure, and many still believe that it carries a death sentence. With the right treatment and care, HIV is manageable.
The first step towards that is a positive diagnosis from HIV tests. It is important that anyone at risk of HIV transmission receives a test.
The problem for many is that the process seems daunting and few know what to expect. Some go in with false expectations of long, invasive procedures where their sexual history will be carefully scrutinized. This is not the case at all. HIV tests can be simple, straightforward processes.
It is important that all at-risk groups receive information about these procedures. With that in mind, here are five important things that all patients need to know about HIV tests.
1) There Is More Than One Kind Of Test
There are different types of tests that healthcare professionals may use. Some tests are more complicated than others. For example, some of the more sophisticated tests will look at a wider panel of diseases and antigens.
4th gen tests look for antibodies, and 5th gen tests look for antigens. These samples are then sent to a laboratory and results can take between a day and two weeks to return.
The healthcare provider in charge should explain the type of test and expected waiting time. Some may offer the option of the rapid test.
Here there is a quick, simple test with a 20 minute waiting time.
2) This Also Means There Is More Than One Way To Take A Sample
The breadth of testing options continues with the way that staff collects the samples. The most common methods in use are the oral swab, for a saliva sample, and the blood test. Both are quick and non-intrusive.
The oral swab takes fluid from the cheek, like a DNA sample, and the blood test is a prick of the finger. Those uncomfortable with needles and blood may be able to choose their preferred approach.
There are also some clinics that may use urine testing as well, but this is uncommon. Patients should expect the blood test for its convenience and accuracy.
3) There Are Testing Windows In Place
It can take time for some people to pluck up the courage to go to the clinic for HIV tests. This is understandable considering the situation. However, many do not realize that there are windows of time where they can carry out tests.
With 4th gen tests, there is a window of four weeks at the moment of possible transmission. This could be the last sexual encounter with an HIV-infected individual or a time of drug use with shared needles. The window is just two weeks long with 5th generation tests.
4) Patients Can Keep It From Family And GP, But They Can’t Be Entirely Secretive
Patients are often concerned about their anonymity with HIV tests. Many understandably wish to attend a specialist clinic away from family doctors. Some may not even tell loved ones until there is a clear result.
Attending HIV tests with full patient confidentiality is possible. However, patients must prepare to answer questions about their sexual health. There could be personal questions about recent sexual encounters and sexual preferences.
As long as patients answer the questions honestly, there should be no problem. Clinics certainly should not stigmatize based on sexuality, gender or disability.
5) There May Be Follow-up Tests And Appointments Depending On The Outcome
Finally, all patients looking into HIV tests must be aware that it may not be a one-time meeting.
If a test result is negative, then there is little to become concerned about, as long as the patient stays safe in the future. However, a positive result for HIV, or other diseases, will lead to follow-up sessions.
Some clinics will administer a second HIV to be sure of the result. Then there are the counseling and treatment sessions following a diagnosis.
HIV tests don’t have to be scary. The potential outcome can be a scary situation to face, but the process of getting tested and learning the result isn’t.
With the right precautions and care, HIV tests can be quick and painless, with plenty of reassurance and guidance on the road ahead.