What You Need to Know About HIV Testing

Your Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy

What is HIV?

HIV is the abbreviation for human immunodeficiency virus, the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).  The virus weakens a person’s ability to fight infections and cancers.  A person can get HIV by coming into contact with an infected person’s body fluids (blood, semen, vaginal fluids, breast milk).  HIV can be spread through:

  • Vaginal, oral or anal sex
  • Sharing unclean needles to take drugs
  • Pregnancy (from mother to baby)
  • Blood transfusions (Since 1985, blood donations have been routinely tested for HIV, so infection from blood transfusions is rare)

You cannot get HIV from:

  • Touching or hugging someone who has HIV or AIDS
  • Public bathrooms or swimming pools
  • Sharing cups, utensils, teleph2s or other personal items
  • Bug bites

How can I know if I have HIV?

You can get a simple blood test to see if you have been infected with HIV.  The test looks for HIV antibodies in your blood.  These antibodies are substances that the body makes in response to the HIV infection.

A small sample of your blood is drawn and sent to the laboratory for testing.  If the first test shows signs of HIV (preliminary test), the sample will be tested again (confirmatory test).  HIV infection is only confirmed after the sample of blood has been tested at least two times.

 

Do I have to take the test?

No, although we strongly recommend it.  HIV testing is voluntary.  Anyone is free to decline testing.  However there are many good reasons to get tested:

  • If you are pregnant and HIV positive, it is critical that you take medicines to help protect your unborn baby from becoming infected.
  • If HIV infection is found, your health care provider can provide more appropriate care.  You can also learn ways to stay healthier longer.
  • HIV testing helps prevent the spread of infection