HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is an extremely devastating illness. “There were approximately 36.9 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS in 2017,” says the World Health Organization, adding that “Of these, 1.8 million were children (<15 years old).”
Moreover, “An estimated 1.8 million individuals worldwide became newly infected with HIV in 2017 – about 5,000 new infections per day.” Unfortunately, “Approximately 75% of people living with HIV globally were aware of their HIV status in 2017.” (1)
That 75 percent is an extremely concerning number. It means that a full quarter of the HIV-infected population does not know they have HIV and is actively passing it on to sexual partners with whom they engage in unprotected sexual activity. The result is that the disease is still spreading in epidemic proportions, unchecked by treatment or protection.
HIV is devastating not on its own, but because it preys upon the body’s immune system by attacking T cells, or immune cells that protect the body against cancers, pathogens and other invaders. Once HIV has destroyed enough of these immune cells, the body becomes unable to defend itself against disease, and opportunistic infections move in, which are frequently fatal. Once this happens, a person is said to have acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. This too is a devastating epidemic, but luckily, it is a preventable one.
For obvious reasons, more people need to know more about their sexual health status if we want to prevent this. That’s where quick, accurate HIV tests come in.
Who Is at Risk of Contracting HIV?
First, it’s important to know whether you’re a part of the at-risk population. That way, you can make better decisions about when and how to be tested. As HIV.gov explains, “Gay and bisexual men have the largest number of new diagnoses in the United States. Blacks/African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos are disproportionately affected by HIV compared to other racial and ethnic groups. Also, transgender women who have sex with men are among the groups at highest risk for HIV infection, and injection drug users remain at significant risk for getting HIV.” (2)
Other people who are at risk of contracting HIV include:
- People who have unprotected sex
- People who have sex with multiple partners
- People who have sex with unknown partners when using drugs or alcohol
- People who have other sexual diseases, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea or herpes, which may make the spread of HIV more likely
- Women who have sex with gay or bisexual men
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that “everyone 13 to 64 years old get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care and that people at high risk of infection get tested more often. CDC recommends that all pregnant women get tested for HIV so that they can begin taking HIV medicines if they are HIV positive.” (3)
There are several ways to test for HIV. So what is the fastest and best way to test for HIV? There are two main answers to this question.
How to Test for HIV: Timing
Most people want to know how to test for HIV the fastest possible way. This makes a lot of sense, since antiviral treatments that stave off the development of AIDS are more effective the earlier they’re started. Because of this, many people who worry about having contracted HIV want to test right away.
Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. HIV tests operate by identifying antibodies that develop in response to the presence of the virus. These are proteins that the body formulates to counteract and get rid of pathogens such as viruses, which signal the presence of that particular virus. Since it takes time for your body to develop those antibodies, it takes time for tests to be accurate. If you test for HIV too soon – most doctors recommend waiting 3-6 months – you may get a false negative.
For that reason, you should wait at least 3 months before taking a test. Even if you get a negative, you should take another test at 6 months. That way, you have the best possible chance of catching the disease, should it be present. During that time, it’s important to wear condoms to protect partners, as the disease is still transmissible, even if it is undetectable.
How to Test for HIV: Fluids
Tests also differ when it comes to which fluid you can test with. Options include:
- Blood: This is the most reliable form of testing. Since antibodies develop and travel in the bloodstream, blood tests during the proper timeframe will reliably indicate whether or not HIV is present. However, these aren’t the only option.
- Urine: Urine also carries antibodies that can indicate the presence of HIV. If you’re taking a HIV at home test kit, this is a great way to test for HIV early so you have all the information possible when it comes to your sexual health.
- Mouth: Note that we did not say “saliva,” since this isn’t actually the fluid being tested. There are other fluids contained within that saliva that can be tested for HIV, though, so this is also a good way to get a heads up about whether or not the virus is present.
Overall, the quickest and best way to test for HIV is to take a test at 3 months, then another at 6 months, using a mail-order system that doesn’t require you to make an appointment with a doctor. If you get a positive result, you can then make an appointment with a doctor at your convenience. At that time, you can take the full panel of tests to determine whether or not you have the virus and what to do about it.
Why Start with Home Testing
Many people are hesitant to go into a clinic or doctor’s office to get tested for STDs, including HIV. There are myriad reasons for this, including the expense, the inconvenience and the embarrassment factor. That’s where HIV at home test kits come in. These allow you to collect and mail away a sample from the comfort and privacy of your own home, so that you don’t have to wonder or worry any longer than necessary. This is the best way to protect your own sexual health as well as that of your partners, without having to make appointments with your doctor every time you want to change partners.
If you’d like to learn more about home tests from iDNA and take control of your sexual health, we invite you to get in touch or order your iDNA Home STD Test Kit today!!
- (1) Global Statistics. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/data-and-trends/global-statistics
- (2) Who Is at Risk for HIV? (2017). Retrieved from https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/about-hiv-and-aids/who-is-at-risk-for-hiv
- (3) HIV Testing. (2018). Retrieved from https://aidsinfo.nih.gov/understanding-hiv-aids/fact-sheets/19/47/hiv-testing