HIV - Symptoms, Tests and Treatment

HIV causes AIDS. It is present in blood, vaginal secretions, semen, and breast milk. HIV can be spread through vaginal, oral, or anal sex without a condom or latex/polyurethane barrier.

The World Health Organization (WHO) makes different suggestions based on where you live. Where HIV is widespread, it recommends that HIV testing be offered to anyone who goes to a healthcare facility.

Symptoms

It is important that you also get tested if:

  • You have ever had vaginal, anal, or oral sex without a condom
  • You have ever shared needles or syringes to inject drugs or other substances
  • You are uncertain of your partner’s status or your partner is living with HIV
  • You are pregnant or are considering becoming pregnant
  • You have ever been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection or disease
  • You have hepatitis C
  • You begin treatment for tuberculosis (TB)

Time when symptoms start appearing: 2-4 weeks if seroconverting (several weeks after infection, during which antibodies are introduced)

When is it right time to test: 95% accuracy after 6 weeks, more accurate results after 3 months

Tests

For HIV testing, patients should be given pre-test counseling, test and post-test counseling. All three are integral part of the HIV testing.

In pre-test counseling, the doctor will be there to tell you about your sexual health and any risks you might have taken. The specialist is there to judge you and you get all your questions cleared.

Tests: Normally, testing involves taking a small sample of blood from either your finger or your arm, or a sample of oral fluid.  

HIV test

What do they test for?

What is the window period?

How long for the results?

Reliability

Third generation antibody tests (ELISA)

HIV antibodies

3 months

 Between 1 to 7 days

High

Fourth generation antibody/antigen tests

HIV antibodies and p24 viral proteins (antigens)

11 days – 1 month

Between a few days and a few weeks

High

Rapid tests

HIV antibodies

3 months

Within 20 minutes

Satisfactory for uncomplicated infection

 

Window period: the time gap between your exposure and the test.

Usually, private centers charge Rs. 500 for this single test, which is done free-of-cost at the ICTCs and charge Rs. 6000 for the ART drugs per month, which again is supplied to patients free of cost at government centers.

Treatment

You can get treatment if you know your HIV status. If you are HIV+ there are medicines that can help you to stay well.

The best thing we can do is prevention. In addition to condoms, clean and sterilized needles and awareness, there is also a new tool to fight spread of HIV – Post exposure prophylaxis (PEP). PEP is an antiretroviral medicine (ART) taken after potential exposed to HIV to prevent becoming infected. PEP should be started within 72 hours after a recent possible exposure to HIV, but the sooner you start PEP, the better.

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