If you’re thinking about getting tested for HIV, it’s normal to have questions about the process. It’s also normal to feel a wide range of emotions.
This article is designed to help you understand the process of getting tested for HIV.
Why should I consider getting tested?
Today we have amazing medications that help people with HIV live long and healthy lives. These medicines can lower the amount of HIV in the body, so that the virus can no longer be detected or spread to others. To benefit from these medicines though, individuals must first know if they are HIV positive. And the only way to know if you have HIV is by getting tested.
Who is at risk for getting HIV?
Everyone is at risk for getting HIV. Fortunately, a little knowledge can go a long way in helping you protect yourself and those you love. Here’s some good info everyone should know.
HIV is spread through:
- Sexual fluids during unprotected vaginal, anal, and oral sex
- Blood when sharing needles
HIV is spread to babies through:
- Blood during pregnancy
- Blood during birth
- Breast milk
Today, medications are available to help people with HIV from passing on the virus to their sexual partners and babies. These medicines work by lowering the amount of HIV in the body, so that the virus can no longer be detected or spread. This idea is called undetectable = untransmissible, or U=U.
FYI, saliva, tears, and sweat have never been shown to cause an HIV infection. So, things like kissing, holding hands, hugging, sitting on toilet seats, and sharing drinks are safe.
Who is at higher risk for getting HIV?
You have a higher risk for HIV infection if you:
- Have sex without protection
- Have another sexually transmitted infection
- Inject drugs and share needles or other injecting supplies
- Have a sexual partner who injects drugs
- Have a sexual partner who has HIV
- Are a man who has sex with men
If any of the above apply to you, it’s important to get tested regularly. It’s also important that your healthcare provider knows that you are at higher risk.
Where can I get tested?
You can get tested at your Tribal clinic, local health center, or at sexual health organizations, like Planned Parenthood. To locate a testing site near you, check AIDSVu and It’s Your Sex Life.
How much does it cost?
Many health centers and clinics offer low-cost or free testing. Just ask. Also, to get a free self-test mailed to you if you live in Alaska, visit iknowmine.org. Outside of Alaska? Text ‘NATIVE TEST’ to 55251.
Will the clinic or center I go to tell my parents I got tested for HIV?
In most states, if you are 13 or older, you can get tested for STDs without your parents knowing. Heads up though – if your use your parents’ health insurance to get tested, the insurance company might notify your parents. If you’re worried about this or have other reasons why you don’t want to be seen at your normal clinic, you can get tested at a place like Planned Parenthood. It’s confidential, and you also can get information about birth control and condoms. Still got questions? Consider this advice from Auntie Manda.
For more information about HIV testing, check out the resources below:
Author: Stephanie Paz is a Tigua Indian of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from The University of Texas at El Paso and is working towards a Master of Public Health in Health Behavior and Health Promotion from New Mexico State University.