Understanding HIV and How to Get Tested
The Center for Disease and Control defines HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) as a virus that attacks the body’s immune system, and if left untreated, it can develop into AIDS. Individuals contracting HIV can live a long life, and will the correct medication, they can avoid transferring the illness to others. HIV is not curable and is a lifetime illness so understanding the history and prevention is essential
The outbreak of HIV started in the United States in the early 1980s, and it was found to be passed through sex, blood donation, and sharing needles. However, researchers found HIV and AIDs had originated in West-Central Africa in monkeys and jumped from primate to human through cuts and wounds before the 1980s. In the past, the fear of HIV lead to misinformation and the ostracizing of individuals such as those in the LGBTQA+ community. This has caused violence and a lack of resources in marginalized Black, Latinx, and LGBTQA+ communities.
Today information is readily available to show everyone can be impacted by HIV, and those who are sexually active should test frequently. Numerous campaigns and research studies touch on ending the stigma associated with HIV that lingers throughout the years. Testing for HIV can be done during STD and STI testing, and it is recommended annually. However, depending on your sexual activity with new partners or frequency, sharing needles twice a year or three times a year can also be done.
The Center for Disease Control has a Get Tested database to help individuals find HIV testing sites in their community for low to no cost.
The three types of HIV tests can be seen below:
- Antibody tests to check for HIV antibodies in blood or oral fluid.
- Antigen/antibody tests can detect both HIV antibodies and HIV antigens in the blood.
- NATs (very expensive and used for high-risk exposures)
Although we have medication and resources that can help individuals with HIV with low to no symptoms and flares, those resources are not readily available to everyone. In addition, marginalized Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and those within LGBTQA+ often live in communities that do not have adequate healthcare, insurance, or transportation. So the necessary medication and treatment that allow people to live longer lives with HIV are not readily available.
It is essential to ensure all communities have the necessary resources and information to have the required testing for HIV. Although anyone can be impacted, not everyone has the healthcare to navigate through HIV, which is a health disparity. Getting tested, advocating, and circulating accurate information is how we can stay informed about HIV.
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Site content is provided for informational purposes and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.