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HIV Testing (cont.)

HIV Testing

New guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend HIV testing in all patients 13 years and older regardless of risk factors.

  • There are many reasons to have an HIV test performed:
    • To know about HIV so that you do not transmit the virus to others, including sexual partners and future children
    • By reducing the "viral load" or number of viruses circulating in the blood, medical treatment of HIV-positive mothers with antiretroviral medication during pregnancy has been shown to reduce the chances of transmission of HIV from mother to child by a factor of 10.
    • To take advantage of early treatment and monitoring

    The life expectancy of a person infected with HIV undergoing treatment with anti-retroviral medication has greatly increased over the past 10 years.

    • Now antiretroviral therapy is being started earlier as newer medications have developed that have fewer side effects and are better tolerated than previously, which equates to a longer lifespan.
    • Early medical attention can slow the growth of HIV. The slower the virus spreads, the longer your body will be able to ward off the illnesses and life-threatening conditions that often accompany AIDS.

    However, the fact remains that the average life expectancy of HIV-positive individuals is still approximately 21 years shorter than HIV-negative individuals at least in part because of inadequate testing and suboptimal management.

    • Anonymous HIV testing is available in most states. Often, the tests are funded by the public health department and are performed at no cost. Anonymous testing means that absolutely no one, except yourself, has access to your test results because your name is never recorded at the test site.
      • You will be given a letter and number code that will be matched with the test results.
      • Most anonymous test sites provide pretest counseling and risk assessment.
      • You must return, in person, to get your results.
      • Anonymous testing sites never give written results and are often preferred because they protect you from the potential risks of discrimination and disclosure to insurance companies.
    • If you give your name at an HIV test site, the test is considered confidential, not anonymous. Confidential antibody testing means that both you and the doctor will know your results, which may be recorded as a written report in your medical file. As a permanent record in your medical file, the information may be available to insurance companies and public agencies.
      • Anonymous HIV antibody testing may not be an option in several circumstances.
        • Active military personnel and all men and women seeking to join the armed services are required to participate in annual HIV testing, and a military doctor can notify the spouse of a reservist if that reservist has tested positive.
        • All applicants for U.S. residency must take an HIV-antibody test as part of the compulsory medical exam. Those who test positive are denied residency automatically. This measure also applies to all people requesting change-in-residence status, including citizenship applications.
        • Some anonymous testing sites will not perform an antibody test on children under the age of 12. Children under 12 have to be tested through a private physician or clinic where the results will be confidential -- not anonymous.
    • If you give your name at an HIV test site, the test is considered confidential, not anonymous. Confidential antibody testing means that both you and the doctor will know your results, which may be recorded as a written report in your medical file. As a permanent record in your medical file, the information may be available to insurance companies and public agencies.
    • Virtually every state has passed laws dealing directly with HIV or AIDS. Because laws may vary among states, it is prudent to be informed prior to consenting to an HIV test. Call your state or local health department to find out what the laws are in your state.

California, New York, and Florida are the states with the highest incidence of HIV infection.

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