Affecting more than 1.2 million people in the United States according to the CDC, 1 in 8 people infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) don’t even know they’re positive. Getting tested for HIV is recommended screening every 3-6 months for any parties at risk, including anyone exposed to the virus, anyone who hasn’t been tested but is in a high risk group like men who have sex with men (MSM), or people who have recently been with multiple partners.1

There are two options for HIV testing. Which test to take is most often determined by the method of exposure. The HIV Early Detection test is recommended for anyone who knows they have been exposed to the virus through unprotected sex with a partner or through any other exchange of blood or bodily fluids with someone HIV positive. There is another test, the fourth generation HIV Antibody test, that is recommended for regular yearly screenings and looks for both the creation of HIV antibodies in response to the virus and the p24 antigen (a marker for HIV).2

The Early Detection test screens for the RNA (genetic material) of the virus. The RNA, or genetic material, is detectable in by blood test about two weeks or more after exposure. For this reason, anyone in urgent need of an HIV test after direct exposure should elect for an early detection test as soon as possible. Often, two weeks or more after infection is the recommended time.

Especially in the early weeks after exposure, combination fourth generation (HIV Antibody) tests run the risk of producing a false negative, if the virus hasn’t yet seroconverted. It is in one’s best interest to receive follow up testing when directly exposed to the virus or if you’re at high risk.2

HIV Treatment

Treatment for HIV can vary depending on what a local doctor or specialist prescribes, but the most effective drug therapy recommended by the CDC is antiviral therapy (ART). This treatment consists of 3 different medicines that work together with a goal of reducing viral load, increasing C4 (T-Cell) count to fight the infection, protecting against opportunistic infections, decreasing the possibility of transmitting the virus from mother to child and decreasing the possibility of transmission from partner to partner. Ask your doctor or healthcare provider about the availability of a pill that combines the three drugs.4

Preventive care plays an extremely important role in the slowing of the spread of HIV. Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a pill that if taken every day, can lower the chances of HIV infection. Post-Exposure Prophylaxis exists and is primarily for use in cases of accidental exposure, like in a hospital setting.5

HIV Overview

Since the first cases were diagnosed in 1981, the HIV/AIDS virus has been a prevalent concern for many communities and individuals across the United States. With new options for prevention and antiretrovirals that slow the progression from HIV to AIDS considerably, living with HIV can be a manageable disease, even if there is no cure. Getting tested is the first step in determining a treatment plan that is effective for you. If you know that you have recently been exposed to the HIV virus, the RNA (early detection test) is the doctor-recommended option for the earliest detection of the virus.

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HIV Symptoms

HIV does not always present with symptoms, especially prior to the virus seroconverting. If an individual experiences any symptoms, they typically will include the following:6

  • Night Sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Flu-like, feverish
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Mouth sores and thrush
  • Diarrhea

AIDS Symptoms
The transition from HIV to AIDS is marked by a noticeable decline in the effectiveness of the immune system. Signs of this transition include:7

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Prolonged swelling of lymph nodes all over body
  • Genital sores
  • Skin sores and blotches
  • Depression and other psychological and neurological disorders

Call a physician as soon as possible if you experience a persistent high or low grade fever, you are concerned about any symptoms you are feeling or if you’re concerned about possible exposure to an STD.

If you experience an onset of severe, acute pelvic or testicular pain, immediately call 911 or visit the emergency room or urgent care facility. If you are concerned about any symptoms becoming life threatening, call 911 immediately.

1 CDC – HIV Testing
2 CDC HIV Testing Laboratory Tests
3 Laboratory Testing for the Diagnosis of HIV Infection: Updated Recommendations
4 CDC – HIV Treatment
5 CDC – Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
6 U.S. National Library of Medicine
7 Progression To AIDS

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