Government and health centers are organizing events and free test camps to encourage people between the ages of 13 and 65 to take up the HIV test.
HIV is one of the deadliest viruses and has infected nearly 1.7 million people in US and 34 million people worldwide. It is estimated that one in five people affected are unaware of their infection.
“Take the Test, Take Control” is the theme of this year’s National HIV Testing Day observed every June 27 since 1995 in an attempt to increase the awareness of the infection and encourage people to get tested.
Factors increasing the risk of HIV
• Having unprotected sex with multiple partners or with someone who is at an increased risk for HIV.
• Unprotected anal sex has a higher risk than unprotected vaginal sex.
• Sharing equipments that are contaminated by the virus.
• Influence of alcohol and drugs may lead to risky behavior like engaging in unprotected sex.
• Women affected with other sexually transmitted diseases (gonorrhea and syphilis) are at an increased risk of contracting HIV.
If you find yourself at an increased risk for HIV infection, get yourself tested at one of the nearest free testing camps or center by visiting the National HIV and STD Testing Resources.
Preliminary screening tests known as rapid HIV tests will give the results within few hours, while it takes few days to few weeks to get the results of the tests.
Initial symptoms of HIV infection are often mild like:
• Swollen lymph nodes
• Swollen and sore throat
• Skin rash
• Muscle aches or pain
These symptoms generally disappear soon and may often be overlooked. However, within weeks, the virus replicates itself and drastically weakens the body’s immune system, and this makes the person prone to infections like pneumonia, tuberculosis and invasive cervical cancer. When a person tests positive for HIV and is affected by one or more diseases, that person is diagnosed with AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
Pregnancy and HIV
Approximately, one in four people with HIV infection in the U.S. are women. It is recommended that all pregnant women get tested for HIV as an early diagnosis can immensely help in improving their health. Appropriate therapy and precautionary measures will prevent the transmission to the child from an HIV infected mother. The transmission risk of the virus to the child is 25% when no preventive measures are taken and the risk increases during labor, child birth and breastfeeding.
HIV treatment right from the initial stages of pregnancy reduces the risk of passing the virus to the newborn to less than 2%. It is essential to get the child tested at three stages:
• At 14 to 21 days after birth
• At 1 to two months of age
• At 3 to six months of age
Researchers have confirmed that giving anti-HIV medicines to the child reduces the risk of HIV by almost 50%.
At present, there is no known cure for HIV infection. However, the condition can be effectively managed using anti-retroviral therapy, which slows down the progress of the virus.
Once a person is diagnosed with HIV, it is important that he explains the situation to his sexual partner, family and friends. Affordable Care Act implemented by the US government ensures that people have a secure and low-cost health insurance even for those with pre-existing condition.
Following a healthy diet along with regular exercise is the key to maintain the strength and energy. HIV infection changes the body’s metabolic processes and certain symptoms like nausea; vomiting and diarrhea prevent you from taking proper food, which results in loss of essential nutrients. Hence, planning an appropriate diet will keep you in a stronger, healthier condition.
Safety measures like avoiding raw food, drinking clean water, abstaining from alcohol and maintaining proper sanitation helps in reducing the risk of contracting other infections.
People with HIV, especially women are an easy prey to psychiatric disorders like stress, depression, anxiety, substance use and cognitive disorders. Spending time on activities of your choice like yoga, jogging, art activities and other hobbies help them relax and move ahead in life. It has been shown in a recent research that having a job helps women manage their illness more effectively.
The key to proper management of the HIV infection lies in early detection, which is why free testing camps are made available so you can get tested and take control of your own health.
Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas