About 1.2 million people live in the United States HIV. But research shows that more than 160,000 are unaware of their condition. According to the CDC, almost 40% of new ones HIV infections are transmitted by people who do not know they have the virus.
For many, there are several reasons that can prevent them from being tested. Some of them are fear of death, stigma and being discriminated against or judged negatively on positive evidence.
Denial reproduces a part
For Seattle’s Kelly Gluckman, HIV was the last thing on her mind when she stopped using it. condoms with his partner without getting tested for the virus for the first time almost 11 years ago.
“I knew that wasn’t the smartest decision,” reflects Gluckman, 34.
At the time, he was 23 years old and even though he knew it HIV testing through integral sex education at school, she says she is a “straight, white woman,” who was never seen at risk for HIV. But after about 6 months of unprotected sex, Gluckman and his partner decided to get tested to rule out HIV as a precaution.
“We both tested positive on October 25, 2010. We were pretty devastated,” Gluckman says.
“The immediate thought was, ‘My God, I’m going to die.’ That was the first thought. I faced mortality, because ‘HIV turns into AIDS and then you die.’ I had delved deeper into what I saw in the media and what I learned in school, ”says Gluckman.
When he thinks about it again, Gluckman says the denial played a role in the hesitation of taking a test.
“For three of those 6 months, we would talk about going for tests and then we wouldn’t,” Gluckman says.
David Pantalone, professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, says many people still tend to have a “scary view” of it [HIV]He thinks it may have something to do with outdated images and narratives about HIV in the 1980s.
“I think there’s no revised public conception of what it’s like to have HIV,” says Pantalone. “The reason is because what seems to be HIV now is basically the same as what it seems not to have. Life expectancy data between HIV-positive and HIV-negative people are not really that different.”
The treatment gives hope
Although HIV has no cure, treatment, antiretroviral therapy (ART), is highly effective. It reduces the amount of HIV virus in the body or viral load. If you take the medicine as your doctor tells you, the viral load may be so low that it becomes “undetectable” in a HIV test. When this happens, there is little or no chance of developing symptoms of the infection or spreading it to other people. HIV can usually be controlled with medication in just under 6 months.
Gluckman saw positive results shortly after he started taking the medication.
“I had no side effects that I can talk about. And my viral load became undetectable in two months, ”says Gluckman.
“I thought, ‘My God, I’m going to live, I can be healthy with this thing, with this virus.’
When should an HIV test be done?
The CDC recommends that all people between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime. You can usually do this during the annual health check. If you have not had the test, ask your doctor.
If you have a higher risk, you should test more often: every 3 or 6 months, to be safe. But Pantalone says the lack of evidence also results from people confusing that a high risk of getting the disease “fits an identity” when it comes to a virus spread by common human behavior, such as having sex. .
“If you have had sex without a condom with someone, you need an HIV test. Even if it’s low risk, you should do it periodically, because you never know, ”says Pantalone.
According to the CDC, you are at higher risk for HIV if you can answer “yes” to any of the following questions:
- Are you a man who has had sex with another man?
- Have you had sex – anal or vaginal – with someone who has HIV?
- Have you had more than one sexual partner since your last HIV test?
- Have you shared needles, shared injectable medications, or other medication injection equipment with others?
- Have you had sex in exchange for drugs or money?
- Have you been diagnosed or treated for other sexually transmitted diseases?
- You have been diagnosed or treated hepatitis or tuberculosis (TB)?
- Have you had sex with someone whose sex history you don’t know?
If any of this applies to you, you may benefit from an annual HIV test even if your last test is negative.
If you are pregnant, ask your doctor for an HIV test. If you have HIV when you have it get pregnant, tell your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor can give you the right medicines to help you and you baby stay healthy.
It is also a good practice to get tested for HIV and find out about your condition before having sex with a new partner for the first time. It is always a good idea to ask yourself about your sexual and drug use history before having sex. If you live with HIV, tell them about your condition. If you are unsure of your partner’s or your HIV status, be sure to bring a condom. This can help protect your health or prevent other people from getting the infection.
What to ask your doctor?
If you think you have been exposed to HIV or have what you think may be symptoms, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Getting tested for HIV or talking to your doctor about HIV can be both uncomfortable and stressful. But getting ready can help you cope better.
Take a list of questions to get the most reliable information. This can help your doctor develop a treatment plan that works best for you.
Even if you find out you don’t have HIV, it’s still a good time to ask questions and learn more about how you can prevent the possibility of HIV infection. You can ask questions like:
- How can I protect myself from HIV?
- How often should I take the test?
- Does my sexual partner also need a test?
- Offer advice on HIV prevention or recommend a place that does?
If you do not want to go alone, ask a friend or family member to accompany you for emotional help. If you are diagnosed with HIV, your doctor can tell you many resources to get the help and treatment you need to control the infection.
If you’re trying to convince a close friend or loved one to get tested for HIV, Pantalone says it can help them think about how knowing or testing their HIV status can help prevent it from spreading to others. people they know. .
You are more than just a virus
There may even be stigma and lack of proper care health care suppliers, according to Pantalone. But he says it’s best not to let that bother you.
“I think people are on the move health care and they want to start getting tested for HIV, (they should) present it to their provider. And if that provider doesn’t support you, change, “says Pantalone.” Going to an organization that specifically serves the HIV community is a good way to find yourself with open arms and no judgments. “
At the end of the day, Gluckman says it’s important to remember that if you test positive for HIV, it’s more than your body’s virus.
“You have a virus. Like any other bacterium, any other virus. You are worthy of respect, you are worthy of love, you are worthy of health, you are worthy of good sex. HIV is just the virus. “