The first step in protecting yourself and others from HIV and STD infection is to learn the facts
The next step is to get tested
There are several different types of HIV tests, but the two most common types are blood tests and oral swab tests. HIV blood tests use a sample of blood, either from a finger prick or a larger sample often taken from the inner arm, to test for antibodies. Oral swab tests collect cells from inside the mouth to test for HIV antibodies.
Traditional HIV test results can take one to two weeks to come back from a lab, but rapid tests are now widely available that can provide a result in about 20 minutes.
Project ARK currently offers blood, finger prick and oral swab testing methods (traditional and rapid results)
Most HIV tests check for antibodies that the body produces once infected with HIV. Antibodies are cells produced by the body’s immune system to fight off all different kinds of infections, including HIV. If an HIV test detects HIV antibodies, a person is infected with HIV. If antibodies are not present, a person is likely not HIV infected. But, it can take as long as three to six months for the body to develop enough antibodies to show up on a test.
The time period between becoming infected with HIV and a positive HIV test result is called the “window period.” During this “window period” you could test negative for HIV but still be infected with HIV and able to transmit the virus to others. Therefore, it is important to get tested (or re-tested) after a sufficient period of time has passed to know for sure.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends HIV testing for everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 (especially if you are sexually active or have never been tested). This does not mean though that testing is done automatically when you see a health care provider even if you have blood drawn. The only way to know for sure you are being tested is to ask to be tested.
HIV testing is also recommended for all pregnant women as a routine part of prenatal care. A woman who has HIV and is pregnant can take certain medications during pregnancy that, combined with medical care, can significantly lower the chances of passing HIV to her baby.
HIV testing at Project ARK is FREE. Visit http://www.hivtest.org/default.aspx for other testing sites near you.
The most important thing to do if you test negative is to stay negative. Use condoms each and every time you have sex—vaginal, anal, or oral—no exceptions. Get tested regularly, talk to your partners about HIV and ask that they get tested with you. You want to make sure that they know you’re watching out for their health and yours. If you use needles, don’t share them.
With the availability of treatments today, you can lead a long and healthy life as an HIV positive person. The most important thing to do if you test positive is to get connected with services and support as soon as possible. Advances in HIV/AIDS treatment are occurring all the time, and medical treatment and a healthy lifestyle can help you stay well much longer than in the early years of the epidemic. But, the longer you wait after testing positive to see a health care provider, the greater your chance of developing serious health problems.
If you’ve tested positive, here are some important steps to take to protect your health:
• See a doctor, even if you don't feel sick. If possible, see a doctor who has experience treating HIV. Consulting someone about your treatment options is the first step towards staying healthy.
• Find a support system. The emotional and physical challenges ahead can be difficult, and having people around to help is important. Ask your doctor about counselors and support groups that can help you.
• Talk with your partner(s). Tell your sexual partner/s about your HIV status and make sure you reduce your risk of transmitting the virus by practicing safer sex, including using latex condoms (with water-based lubricant) or dental dams each and every time you have sex.
For more information about how Project ARK can help you if you or a loved one is living with HIV/AIDS click here.
Project ARK offers HIV testing on a walk-in basis 11:00AM – 4:00PM Monday – Thursday. If you cannot make it in during our walk-in hours, please feel free to contact us and schedule an appointment.