Tag Archive for: HIV

Who Should get Tested for HIV?

The only way for someone to know if they are infected with HIV is to get tested. The CDC recommends everyone age 13 to 64 get tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime as part of routine health care. People who participate in high-risk activities should get tested more often.

High-risk activities include:

  • Men having sex with men
  • Having sex with a partner who is HIV positive without using a condom or taking Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
  • Multiple sexual partners in the last year
  • Having sex with someone who participates in the high-risk activities above or, you don’t know their sexual history
  • Exchanging sex for drugs or money
  • Sharing needles, syringes, or other drug injection equipment

Other risk factors that require testing more often:

  • Previously diagnosed with, or treated for, another sexually transmitted infection, hepatitis, or tuberculosis

It’s recommended that high-risk individuals get tested once a year. Intravenous drug users should get tested every six months. Women who are pregnant and haven’t been tested previously should also talk with their healthcare provider about getting tested for HIV. Infected pregnant women can reduce the risk of passing the virus on to their child to as little as 1% with proper treatment.

How do you test for HIV?

NOAH offers HIV testing as part of routine blood work as well as rapid testing which only requires a simple finger poke and produces results in as little as 30 minutes.

How much does it cost?

HIV testing at NOAH is free but does require an appointment with a medical provider. As preventative care, this appointment is typically covered in full by most insurance carriers.

Maricopa County is an HIV Hot Spot

A federal program launched in 2020 “Ending the HIV Epidemic” identified 50 jurisdictions and seven states accounting for more than half of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States. Maricopa County is on the list of HIV “Hot Spots” with new infection rates per 100K people ranking higher than the state and national average. Allocating additional government funds to geographical areas like Maricopa County improves access to HIV testing, treatment and prevention with the goal to reduce new infections by 75% in five years (2025) and by 90% in ten years (2030).

Now more than ever, people living with HIV can lead long healthy lives with proper treatment. The earlier the virus is detected, the sooner treatment can begin. For more details on HIV treatment and prevention, check out our blog post “What if You Test Positive for HIV?” or schedule an appointment with your NOAH provider.

What if You Test Positive for HIV?

Learning you’ve tested positive for HIV might feel like the end of the world, especially if you weren’t expecting it. It’s normal to feel mad, scared, sad, or even numb at first and you’ll likely experience a wave of these emotions as the reality of your diagnosis begins to set in.

NOAH’s HIV navigation team will contact you immediately if you have a positive HIV diagnosis. Our highly skilled team will help you process and understand your results, help you schedule an initial appointment with an HIV specialty clinic, and connect you with financial assistance if needed.

Treatment

HIV treatment with prescription medication should begin as soon as possible. The goal of this medicine is to reduce the amount of HIV in your blood, often referred to as your “viral load”. The lower your viral load, the lower your chances are of transmitting the virus to others and/or contracting life-threatening infections or cancers.

Research has shown that patients with HIV can obtain an undetectable viral load in six months or less as long as they continue treatment as prescribed. It’s important to note, every patient is different, and results may vary.

HIV is Not a Death Sentence

Though there is no cure for HIV, taking your medicine can keep you undetectable. According to the CDC, in the early years of the epidemic, HIV positive individuals usually only had one or two years to live. Over the past 40 years, HIV treatment has come a long way and enabled patients to live long, healthy lives. The single most important thing you can do to prolong your life and the lives of others is to get tested.

Resources for Support

It’s a good idea to enlist a few support channels to help you cope with your diagnosis and live your best life with HIV. NOAH offers in-person and virtual individual counseling services and your HIV care provider will likely have referrals or recommendations. There are also hundreds of online resources; try Stop HIV Together and Positive Spin; both backed by the CDC, or Maricopa County’s Positively You.

For more information on HIV testing, read our blog article “Who Should get Tested for HIV?” or schedule an appointment with your NOAH provider.

Common Myths About HIV

MYTH #1: I can get HIV by being around people who are HIV positive.

HIV cannot be spread through casual contact. The virus can only be transmitted through certain body fluids including: blood, semen, rectal fluid, vaginal secretion, and breast milk. HIV is not spread through saliva, sweat, tears, or even mosquito bites. Here’s a detailed list from the CDC on how HIV can and cannot be transmitted.

MYTH #2: Only gay men can get HIV.

Although the infection rates are more prominent in gay and bisexual men. Anyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation can become infected with HIV.

For new HIV positive cases reported from 2015 to 2019, male to male sexual contact accounted for 69% and male to female sexual contact made up for 23% of diagnoses.

MYTH #3: It’s OK to have unprotected sex if both partners have HIV.

Unprotected sex between two people that have each been diagnosed with HIV is still risky.

HIV comes in different forms or variants and those variants can be transmitted between partners even if one or both partners is already infected with HIV. Different types of the virus may not react to medication in the same way or can cause other problems with treatment. Types of HIV are also known to change over time, so even if one partner infected the other, their variants could be different. The risk of transmission can be reduced to zero if both partners use medication to reduce and maintain the amount of HIV in the blood to very low levels. This is also referred to as maintaining an undetectable viral load.

MYTH #4: Birth control prevents HIV.

HIV can be spread through any unprotected sex. Most forms of birth control only prevent pregnancy. The best single way to prevent both HIV and pregnancy during sexual intercourse is by using a condom. However, using a combination of prevention methods like Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV and one of a wide-range of birth control methods provides even better protection.

MYTH #5: You can tell someone has HIV by how they look.

It’s normal for people with HIV to not look or feel sick. In fact, the CDC reports one in seven people who are infected with HIV don’t even know it. The only way to know if a person has HIV is for them to get tested and share their positive results.

MYTH #6: HIV is curable.

At this time there is no cure for HIV. Medicine can help people who have the virus live long, healthy lives. Treatment can even reduce one’s viral load to an undetectable (and untransmittable) level.

If you have questions about HIV testing, prevention, or treatment, talk to your NOAH provider.

Q&A: Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Infections

Sexually transmitted diseases and infections (STDs and STIs) often have no symptoms but can lead to chronic health conditions if left undiagnosed or untreated. That’s why it is so important to get tested at least once and on a regular basis if you are more at risk due to multiple sexual partners or unprotected sex.

NOAH healthcare provider and STD, STI, and HIV expert Sarah DeRubeis gives answers to commonly asked questions about prevention, testing, and treatment.

Q. How does NOAH test for STDs, STIs and HIV?

A. To test for all STDs, STIs, and HIV, you will need a visual exam, blood draw and urine analysis; all of which can be performed at any NOAH health center.

Q. Is there one test for everything or does someone need to request to be tested for each disease specifically?

A. Each test can be ordered individually. However, most providers order a full panel for patients who have had an exposure or are wanting a screening for STDs, STIs, and HIV.

Q. Is an appointment required?

A. An appointment is required with a health care provider to get an order for STD, STI and HIV testing.

Q. How much does testing cost?

A. There is typically no cost to the patient if the testing is completed as part of a visit with a NOAH healthcare provider.

Q. How long does it take to get results?

A. Timing of results varies based on the type of test. Results for Rapid HIV testing are usually available in as little as 20 minutes. The STD and STI testing with urine and blood can take two to three business days to report and a skin biopsy can take up to seven days.

Q. Who should get tested and how often?

A. Every patient who is sexually active or otherwise at risk should get tested for STDs, STIs and HIV. NOAH providers recommend patients get tested yearly or before engaging in sexual activity with new partners. Even if you don’t have risk factors, it’s a good idea to get tested at least once.    

Q. What are typical treatments if someone tests positive?

A. Most STDs, STIs and even HIV can be treated or even cured with prescription medication. Getting tested and diagnosed is the first step in treating the issue AND preventing it from spreading to others.

Q. If someone tests positive for an STD, STI, or HIV and is treated elsewhere, is it important to share this info with their NOAH health care provider?

A. STD, STI, and HIV testing, diagnosis, and treatment should always be reported to your healthcare provider. This information should be provided as part of your standard health history questionnaire which is completed at your first appointment.

Q. What are the best ways to prevent STDs, STIs, and HIV?

A. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends all individuals who are sexually active protect themselves and others from exposure to STDs, STIs, and HIV. Prevention methods include testing regularly for STDs, STIs, and HIV, using condoms or choosing not to have sex, and refraining from any other risky behavior. There are also vaccines available for human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B. To reduce the risk of contracting HIV, patients should also consider taking daily pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) HIV prevention medication.  

We encourage you to discuss STD, STI, and HIV testing and prevention with your NOAH healthcare provider. Learn even more about awareness, prevention, and testing for STDs, STIs and HIV in this informative article.