HIV Testing (cont.)
Why is HIV Testing Counseling so Important?
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 resources.
- 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.
Leon Salem, MD, MS, FACEP