Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Counseling is an essential part of HIV antibody testing and should always be performed before and after testing regardless of HIV status. Counseling is mandatory in most anonymous testing sites.
Counseling prior to the test will help you understand the results of your test, learn how to protect yourself from the virus, and gain the knowledge of how to prevent the spread of HIV if you should become infected. The counselor will explain the following:
The test and how is performed
AIDS and the ways HIV infection is spread
Ways to prevent the spread of HIV
The confidentiality or anonymity of the test results
The meaning of possible test results
Who you might tell about your result
The importance of telling your sexual and drug-using partner(s) if the result indicates HIV infection
Post-test counseling is equally as important. A negative test result can still miss a very recent HIV infection and does not mean you are immune to HIV. Behaviors that can transmit HIV include having unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person or sharing needles or syringes with an infected person. Your post-test counselor will discuss these behaviors with you and the implications of the window period.
If you test positive for HIV antibodies, the counselor will help in referring you to a doctor who specializes in treatment and monitoring of HIV.
If you do not have health insurance or if you will depend on public sources, you may need special assistance to get treatment, and a counselor can help you find these
A counselor can also help in the notification of partners and refer you to a support group for people with HIV as a means of coping with the disease.