What is HIV and how to get tested?
HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is a virus that assaults the body’s immune system, primarily white blood cells known as CD4-positive (CD4+) T-helper cells. These cells, also known as CD4 cells, T-helper cells, or T4 cells, play a crucial role in recognizing pathogens that enter the body and mounting an immune response against them. HIV infiltrates and destroys CD4 cells if left untreated, limiting the immune system’s ability to combat infections and illnesses.
When the number of CD4 cells falls low enough, or certain illnesses caused by a compromised immune system occur, a person may be diagnosed with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS.
How dangerous is HIV?
Because AIDS weakens the immune system, the body may have problems fighting off some malignancies or viral, fungal, or bacterial infections, which can be lethal. While there is no cure for HIV, effective HIV treatment, known as antiretroviral therapy (ART), can reduce virus levels to undetectable levels, allowing patients to live longer, healthier lives, and helping to prevent the virus from spreading to others.
What is the natural host of HIV?
In the wild and in captivity, many species of African nonhuman primates are naturally infected with Simian Immunodeficiency Viruses (SIVs). Unlike HIV-infected humans, these natural SIV hosts seldom acquire AIDS despite persistent infection with a rapidly replicating virus.
How does HIV transmit?
HIV can only be found in five body fluids: blood, sperm, vaginal fluids, breast milk, and anal mucus. One of these bodily fluids must enter the bloodstream, which occurs only in certain circumstances:
HIV is most usually transmitted through sexual contact with an infected partner. During sexual activity, the virus enters the body through the lining of the vagina, vulva, penis, rectum, or mouth.
Contamination with blood
Contact with infected blood can also spread HIV. However, because blood is screened for indications of HIV infection, the risk of contracting HIV from blood transfusions is extremely low.
Sharing needles, syringes, or drug-use equipment with someone infected with HIV is a common way for the virus to spread. Transmission from patient to healthcare professional, or vice versa, is uncommon due to inadvertent contact with contaminated needles or other medical tools.
Mother to child
HIV can also be passed on to babies born to or breastfed by HIV-infected moms. HIV cannot be transmitted through everyday contact such as hugging, kissing, or sharing a restroom, towels, or dishes.
HIV is not airborne and cannot be transmitted via; Swimming pools, Telephones, Saliva, Sweat, Seats for toilets, and Insects that bite (such as mosquitoes)
What are the symptoms of HIV?
HIV infection occurs in three stages, each with its unique set of symptoms.
Acute HIV infection is the first stage. Approximately two-thirds of people may develop symptoms like a nasty flu within the first two to four weeks after HIV infection. Fever may develop when the immune system mobilizes to combat the virus, along with other symptoms such as sore throat, swollen glands, mouth sores, rashes, diarrhea, exhaustion, headache, and muscle and joint pain. This stage, known as acute infection or primary HIV infection, can last a few days or several weeks.
Clinical Latency is second stage. If the infection is left undetected or untreated, the immune system can reduce the virus’s level, but it cannot entirely control or contain it; the virus remains active but multiplies more slowly, typically without generating symptoms. This period is also known as clinical latency or chronic HIV infection, and it can persist up to 15 years. Even if they don’t have symptoms, persons with HIV who aren’t taking medicine still have enough virus in their system to transmit it to others, and the virus continues to destroy the immune system over time, leading to declining health.
AIDS is the third stage of HIV infection. If a person endures years without receiving HIV medication, the next and last stage is AIDS. AIDS symptoms can include the following:
- Rapid weight loss
- Fever that comes back
- Sweating at night
- Weakness and fatigue
- Lymph gland enlargement
- Diarrhea that persists
- Mouth ulcers, anus, or genital ulcers
- Blotches on the skin, beneath the skin, or within the mouth, nose, or eyelids
- Memory loss and depression are two examples of neurological disorders.
Some of these symptoms may be the result of an opportunistic infection, such as pneumonia, that an HIV-damaged immune system is unable to combat efficiently.
What should I do if I just found out I have HIV?
If you test positive for HIV, research shows that if you start taking medicine right away (or even if you return to treatment after a break) and stick with it, you can reduce the quantity of virus in your blood (your viral load), protect your immune system, and prevent transmission to others.
Who Should Get Tested for HIV?
The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once. People who are more susceptible to HIV should be tested more frequently. The CDC classifies people in this higher-risk category as having:
- Had more than one sex partner in the past year
- Dated an HIV-positive person
- Have you had hepatitis, TB, or a sexually transmitted disease in the last year?
- Sex in exchange for drugs or money
- Injection equipment shared
If you aren’t in any of these higher-risk groups but suspect your spouse is, the CDC believes you should be checked as well.
Pregnant or trying to become pregnant women should also be tested. If you have HIV, starting treatment while pregnant can significantly lower the likelihood that your child will be born with HIV.
The CDC recommends annual HIV testing for males who have sex with men, although other doctors may advise every three to six months for some individuals, based on other risk factors.
Where To Get Tested for HIV / AIDS?
Many medical and public health facilities offer HIV tests. Hospitals, clinics, retail pharmacies, community-based HIV groups, prenatal and family planning clinics, youth drop-in centers, mobile testing sites, and drug and alcohol treatment centers are examples of such facilities.
What are the HIV testing methods available?
There are numerous HIV test choices available. There are tests for saliva, blood, and even urine. Tests look for antibodies (proteins produced by your body to combat the virus); antigens (proteins on the surface of HIV cells that stimulate the generation of antibodies); or genuine genetic material from the HIV virus.
Which test you choose is determined by how recently you believe you were exposed to HIV, how long you want to wait for findings, and how you feel about blood draws.
- NAT (nucleic acid test): 10 to 33 days after exposure A nucleic acid test (NAT) can detect HIV’s genetic material in the blood of persons who have flu-like symptoms and a recent high-risk encounter. This test must be performed in a clinic and is costly. It is typically used by healthcare providers to corroborate the results of other tests.
- Antibody/antigen test: between 18- and 45-days following exposure This frequent laboratory test looks for both antibodies and antigens. Antigens can be detected in the bloodstream before antibodies form, indicating the presence of HIV. An antibody/antigen test can be a quick test that uses blood from a finger prick and provides findings in under 30 minutes. It could also be a test that draws blood from a vein and provides results in a few days.
- Antibody test: between 23- and 90-days following exposure A fluid sample swabbed from inside your cheek or blood from a finger prick are used in an antibody-only test. These quick tests and at-home testing can detect HIV antibodies as early as three weeks after exposure and provide results in 20 to 30 minutes. They are also effective in diagnosing chronic HIV.
There are antibody-only tests that employ blood obtained from a vein as opposed to a finger prick. These tests, which are performed in a lab, can often detect the infection sooner after exposure but take several days to produce results. All positive antibody tests should be followed by a second test to confirm the results.
You can check our RapidForTM Anti-HIV (1/2) Rapid Test Kit, RapidForTM Anti-HIV (1/2) Rapid Test Kit (IVD) and RapidForTM HIV Ag/Ab Combo Rapid Test Kit to get tested safely and accurately.