HIV testing during pregnancy is important because antiviral therapy can improve the mother's health and greatly lower the chance that an HIV-infected pregnant woman will pass HIV to her infant before, during, or after birth. The treatment is most effective for babies when started as early as possible during pregnancy. However, there are still great health benefits to beginning treatment even during labor or shortly after the baby is born. In addition, HIV testing provides an opportunity for infected women to find out that they are infected and to gain access to medical treatment that may help improve their own health. For some uninfected women with risks for HIV, the prenatal care period could be an ideal opportunity for HIV prevention and subsequent behavior change to reduce risk for acquiring HIV infection.
If you test positive for HIV, the sooner you take steps to protect your health, the better. Early medical treatment and a healthy lifestyle can help you stay well. Prompt medical care may delay the onset of AIDS and prevent some life-threatening conditions. AID Upstate can help you find the right treatment options for your health. Additionally, there are a number of important steps you can take immediately to protect your health:
See a licensed health care provider, even if you do not feel sick. Try to find a health care provider who has experience treating HIV.
Smoking cigarettes, drinking too much alcohol, or using illegal drugs can weaken your immune system. There are programs available that can help you stop or reduce your use of these substances.
Get screened for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Undetected STDs can cause serious health problems. It is also important to practice safe-sex behaviors so you can avoid getting STDs or another form of HIV.
There is much you can do to stay healthy. Learn all that you can about maintaining good health.
No. Your HIV test result reveals only your HIV status. Your negative test result does not indicate whether or not your partner has HIV. HIV is not necessarily transmitted every time you have sex. Therefore, your taking an HIV test should not be seen as a method to find out if your partner is infected. Ask your partner if he or she has been tested for HIV and what risk behaviors he or she has engaged in, both currently and in the past. Think about getting tested together.
Once HIV enters the body, the immune system starts to produce antibodies – (chemicals that are part of the immune system that recognize invaders like bacteria and viruses and mobilize the body's attempt to fight infection). In the case of HIV, these antibodies cannot fight off the infection, but their presence is used to tell whether a person has HIV in his or her body. In other words, most HIV tests look for the HIV antibodies rather than looking for HIV itself.
The most common HIV tests use blood or saliva to detect HIV infection. Some tests take a few days for results, but rapid HIV tests can give results in about 20 minutes. Reactive rapid tests must be followed up by another test to confirm the result.
Most HIV tests are antibody tests that measure the antibodies your body makes against HIV. It can take some time for the immune system to produce enough antibodies for the antibody test to detect, and this time period can vary from person to person. This time period is commonly referred to as the “window period.” Most people will develop detectable antibodies within 6 to 12 weeks (the average is 25 days). Even so, there is a chance that some individuals will take longer to develop detectable antibodies. Ninety-seven percent of persons will develop antibodies in the first 3 months following the time of their infection. In very rare cases, it can take up to 6 months to develop antibodies to HIV. Find the location of the HIV testing site nearest to you by visiting the National HIV Testing Resources online or call CDC-INFO 24 Hours/Day at 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636), 1-888-232-6348 (TTY), in English, en Español.