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When Should Someone Seek Medical Care for HIV/AIDS?
All sexually active adults should know their HIV status and should be tested for HIV routinely at least once. This is the only way to know whether one is HIV infected. It is not unusual for a person to get HIV from a person they never knew could have HIV; again, most people with HIV do not know it for years. Testing is important yearly or more often if a person has risk factors for HIV. If someone has a history of engaging in unprotected sex outside of a mutually monogamous relationship (meaning both partners have sex only with each other) or sharing needles while using drugs, he or she should have an HIV test. Early testing, recognition of the signs and symptoms of HIV infection, and starting treatment for HIV as soon as possible can slow the growth of HIV, prevent AIDS, and decrease the risk of transmission to another person. If a woman is pregnant and infected with HIV, she can greatly reduce the risk to her unborn child by getting treatment. HIV testing is routinely offered at the first prenatal visit.
HIV testing is available through any health-care provider, as well as anonymously and confidentially. Home tests for HIV are available for purchase in most pharmacies and online. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a tool to help the public find their nearest HIV testing site by zip code at https://gettested.cdc.gov. You can also text your ZIP code to KNOW IT (566948), or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636). Knowing one's status is the first step to avoiding AIDS.
People known to have HIV infection should go to the hospital any time they develop high fever, shortness of breath, coughing up blood, severe diarrhea, severe chest or abdominal pain, generalized weakness, severe headache, seizures, confusion, or a change in mental status. These may indicate a life-threatening condition for which an urgent evaluation in the hospital's emergency department is recommended. All infected people should be under the regular care of a physician skilled in the treatment of HIV and AIDS.
Last Reviewed 8/31/2017
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