The Top Ten Reasons to Take an HIV Test


Are you wondering whether you should be tested for HIV? Then this video is for you. Welcome to ŌThe Top Ten Reasons to Take an HIV Test.Ķ My name is [PRESENTER NAME]. IÕm a physician who specializes in HIV/AIDS. In this video, we will explain some of the many reasons you should take an HIV test.


1) If You Are HIV Positive, Getting Treatment Early Can Save Your Life


HIV tests attempt to determine if you have been infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The most widely-used look for antibodies to HIV in your body. To keep the risk of an incorrect result as low as possible, a person will normally have to be tested two different ways before they are given a confirmed result of HIV positive. There is an initial screening test, and a second test to confirm any positive result on the first test. It can take as long as six months after exposure to HIV for antibodies to develop. As a result, you need to be tested and receive an HIV negative test result at least six months after your last possible exposure to HIV before you can be sure you donÕt have HIV.


2) If You Are HIV Positive, Practicing Safer Sex Techniques Can Save Your Partner's Life


If you are HIV positive and choose to be sexually active, using safer sex techniques, such as using a condom correctly every time, can greatly reduce the risk that you will transmit HIV to your sexual partner. If you know that you are HIV positive, you may be more motivated to practice safer sex techniques than if you're uncertain of you're status, so getting tested and knowing your status may reduce the risk you will transmit the infection to others.


3) If You Are HIV Positive and Pregnant, Getting Treatment Can Prevent Your Unborn Child From Contracting HIV


The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have recommended for many years now that all pregnant women be tested for HIV. If an HIV positive woman takes no steps to protect her child from HIV and does not breastfeed, there is a 15-30% chance that her child will contract HIV. If she also breastfeeds, the risk of transmission increases to 20-45%. However, if an HIV positive woman follows her doctorÕs instructions, which will include use of appropriate antiretroviral medications, it is possible to greatly reduce the risk of the child contracting HIV.


4) You May Have Been Exposed to HIV Without Realizing It


Many people assume that they would know if there were a chance that they had been exposed to HIV. Unfortunately, that's not the case. There are many ways that a person can be exposed to HIV without realizing it at the time. For example, a sexual partner might believe that they were HIV negative but in fact be HIV positive. They might have tested HIV negative in the past but contracted HIV since their last HIV test. They might be afraid they had been exposed to HIV but avoid getting tested due to fear or denial. They might even know they are HIV positive but tell you they are HIV negative due to fear, shame, desire for sex, or other reasons.


You might think you don't have to worry about HIV if you are married. Unfortunately, that's not necessarily the case. Your spouse might have contracted HIV before marriage and not know it. Or your spouse might have had sex with another partner since you were married and not told you. Your spouse could have a drug habit they hadn't told you about and have shared needles with another injection drug user. For all of these reasons, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all adults, including married people, should be tested for HIV during a routine doctor's office visit. What you don't know CAN kill you!


5) You Can Be HIV Positive and Not Even Know It


Many people do not experience symptoms of primary HIV infection when they are first infected. Even if they do, they and their doctor usually don't realize that HIV is the cause, and the symptoms quickly disappear. For many years, the person infected with HIV may show no symptoms of being ill. In the developed world, HIV positive people look and feel healthy for 10 years on average before they develop symptoms of AIDS, and some for much longer. A person can be infected with HIV and not even know it. Getting tested is the only way to know for sure.


6) Being Tested for HIV Is Quick, Easy, and Free


In most places in the developed world, you can take an initial HIV test either via a simple oral swab or by a finger stick. Only if you test positive on the first test will it be necessary to draw blood for the second test to confirm your initial test result.


In most places, it's also possible to be tested for HIV at no charge. Most public health clinics will perform HIV tests for free.


7) Your Privacy is Protected


In many places, you can take an HIV test anonymously without giving your name or any identifying information. On the other hand, in the United States, some states require confidential name-based reporting of test results to public health authorities. Even in states that require confidential name-based reporting of test results, you have the option of providing a pretend name if you don't want your true name revealed. It's also possible to purchase an HIV test kit over the counter at a pharmacy, take the test at home, and get your results by phone. Our video "The Top Ten Questions About HIV Tests" discusses your HIV testing options in more detail.


8) The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Recommend That All Adults Be Tested for HIV


Many new HIV infections occur when a person who didn't realize they were HIV positive has sexual contact with another person. To slow the spread of HIV, it's vital that the people who are HIV positive but don't know it learn their status so they can take steps to protect their sexual partners. For this reason, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all adults (not just those who feel they are at risk) be tested for HIV during a routine doctor's visit. Performing HIV tests is inexpensive; providing a lifetime of medical treatment to a person infected with HIV is expensive. Therefore, the CDC has determined that it's actually cost-effective to test the entire adult population for HIV so that those who are HIV positive but don't know it learn their status and the rate of new infections will be reduced through behavior changes that result. In addition, no matter what your age, if you have been sexually active, have injected drugs, or have any other risk factors for HIV, you should be tested.


9) You'll Be Doing Your Part in the Global Fight Against HIV


HIV is by many measures the most serious pandemic in the world today. Over twenty million people have died of AIDS already, and 33 million people are living with HIV/AIDS today. By getting tested, you'll be doing your part to prevent further infections and deaths from HIV. People who are confirmed HIV negative may be more motivated to take steps to reduce their risk and stay that way. People who are confirmed HIV positive may be more motivated to do things like using condoms correctly every time to reduce their risk of transmitting HIV. People who are confirmed HIV positive can also get treatment that will keep them healthy longer and will also reduce their risk of infecting others. And whatever your test result, you will be empowered to encourage others to get tested as well.


10) If You Are Confirmed HIV Negative, You'll Stop Worrying You Might Be HIV Positive


When people think there's a possibility they may have contracted HIV, they often feel tremendous stress. They may have difficulty sleeping and be distracted by fear of developing AIDS. They may even develop symptoms of depression.


As long as you hold off being tested, the fear that you may be HIV positive may bother you. Even if you are in fact HIV negative, the fear that you may be HIV positive may cause you to misinterpret ordinary aches, pains, and minor infections as symptoms of HIV or AIDS, which will cause you needless stress.


The only way to know for sure whether you have contracted HIV is to be tested and follow any instructions you are given for follow-up testing. Knowledge is power. If you are confirmed HIV negative, any fears will be put to rest, your stress level will be reduced, and you can take steps to keep yourself HIV negative.


Get Tested!


That's ten great reasons to get tested for HIV. It's quick, easy, painless, free, and confidential. If you're HIV negative, it will keep you from worrying needlessly. If you're HIV positive, it can save your life and the life of your sexual partners or unborn child. Health authorities recommend getting tested, and you'll be doing your part in the global fight against HIV. How many more reasons do you need? Get tested. It's the right thing to do. This is [PRESENTER NAME].



Script by Eric Krock and Becky Kuhn, M.D.


This script was reviewed for accuracy and approved by Becky Kuhn, M.D. on June 28, 2008.