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 “The Top Ten Reasons to Take an HIV Test.” My name is [PRESENTER NAME]. I’m [PRESENTER ROLE]. 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 cause of AIDS. Your doctor will give you one or more tests.


To be confident that you are not infected with HIV, you will have to get an “HIV negative” test result at least six months after the last time you may have come into contact with HIV, such as the last time you had sex or shared needles.


If you turn out to be HIV positive, knowing that sooner can save your life. Your doctor can begin monitoring your health to determine if when is the right time to start taking AIDS medications. By following your doctor's instructions, you may be able to prevent HIV from progressing to AIDS. This could reduce your risk of additional problems like pneumonia, tuberculosis, other infections, severe weight loss, or death.


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 have a stronger desire to practice safer sex techniques than if you don't know whether you are infected. So getting tested and knowing whether you are infected may reduce the risk you will transmit HIV to others.


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


The World Health Organization recommendeds that all pregnant women be tested for HIV. An infant is most likely to contract HIV from the mother during childbirth or by breastfeeding. Breast milk contains HIV. When an HIV positive pregnant woman does not use AIDS medications during pregnancy and also breastfeeds , her child is at increased risk of contracting HIV. When an HIV positive woman does not use AIDS medications during pregnancy but feeds her child with infant formula, the risk of HIV transmission is somewhat reduced.


If you are an HIV positive pregnant woman and you follow your doctor’s instructions, you can greatly reduce the risk that your child will contract HIV. Your doctor will have you use AIDS medications during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. The doctor will have you give AIDS medications to your infant after birth. If clean water and formula are available in your area, your doctor may tell you to feed the infant with formula instead of breastfeeding. See our video "Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmision of HIV" for more information.


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, it's possible to be tested for HIV at no charge. Most public health clinics will perform HIV tests for free. In many places, an initial HIV test can be done by a simple oral swab.


7) Your Privacy is Protected


Anonymous Testing


In some places, you can go to a public health clinic and tell them that you want to be tested for HIV anonymously. That means they will test you for HIV without writing down your name.


Confidential, Name-Based Testing


Not all places have this kind of anonymous testing program. In some places, you must give a name when you are tested. They keep the name secret and do not make it public. This is called “Confidential, Name-Based Testing.” If you don’t want to give your real name, you don’t have to. Don’t let the need to give a name stop you from getting tested for HIV.


There are two major types of HIV: HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is the type of HIV found most widely outside of Africa. In some places, you can buy an HIV-1 test kit at a pharmacy. You take the test at home and get your results by phone. Watch our video "The Top Ten Questions About HIV Tests" for more information about HIV testing options.


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 sex 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 that they are HIV positive 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. 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 epidemic in the world today. As of December 2009, over twenty five million people have died of HIV and AIDS , and 33 million people are living with HIV/AIDS. By getting tested, you'll be doing your part to prevent further infections and deaths from HIV. People who are confirmed HIV negative may have a stronger desire to take steps to reduce their risk and stay HIV negative. People who are confirmed HIV positive may have a stronger desire 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. 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 they may have contracted HIV, they often feel tremendous stress. They may have difficulty sleeping and be distracted by fear of developing AIDS.


As long as you avoid or delay 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, you will worry less, 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, 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].


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


This script was reviewed for accuracy and approved by Becky Kuhn, M.D. on September 6 , 2010.