Testing for HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infection is available in different types of settings. Testing is mostly voluntary, that is, you decide to go get tested. Most of the settings where testing for HIV is available, are medical settings. These include: physician offices, hospitals, managed care organizations, and public health clinics (e.g., community health centers and health departments).
Home-collection kits are also available in some areas. The kits are for self-testing. The sample is mailed to a testing center and the results are maintained anonymous (identifying information on the person is not recorded) or confidential (identifying information is recorded, but not shared with anyone), according to the center.
Other instances where HIV testing is conducted, voluntary or required, includes persons in the following scenarios: military, blood donations, correctional institutions, and insurance applications.
Follow-up testing six moths after initial testing might be recommended to persons who have been exposed or have been involved in risky-behavior that might have place them at risk of being infected with HIV. If the risky behavior stops, then no further testing is required after the follow-up test.
Increasing the knowledge of persons’ HIV status might decrease the transmission of HIV to others as well as treatment for those who test positive.
Counseling forms part of the testing process. Persons tend to be counseled before (pre) and after (post) testing. Persons who test HIV positive undergo additional counseling and referral for treatment.
Counseling is also offered to reduce risky behaviors. This type of counseling focuses on personal risk reduction among persons at high risk of HIV and other STDs.
There is no cure or vaccine available for AIDS. Thus, the importance placed on prevention. Some treatment has been known to be beneficial among persons who test HIV positive or who have been exposed to HIV and are most likely infected (e.g., health care workers who have been stuck with an infected needle). Treatments used for HIV infected persons tend to be called protease inhibitors because of the way the medications work (targets the protease enzyme).
The commonly called drug “cocktails” used to treat AIDS patients refer to a combination of drugs (e.g., AZT, ddC, ddI, 3TC). These drugs are a combination of antiviral (attack the virus) drugs and drugs that help the immune system. These drugs help HIV or AIDS infected individuals in fighting infections, staying healthy, and continuing rather normal lives. These medications tend to help many persons, but they are expensive, cause severe side effects, and the regimens tend to be very difficult to follow. Some persons might need to take several dozens of pills several times a day. The treatment is so intense and causes severe side effects that some persons rather drop treatment and face the outcomes of the disease, perhaps death.
Recent research shows a trend among persons in risk groups who might believe they no longer need to practice preventive measures because medication drugs are so effective in treating HIV/AIDS. But, HIV remains a serious and usually fatal disease that requires complex, costly, and difficult treatments. These treatments do not work for everyone. Sometimes when they do work, they have unpleasant or intolerable side effects. Still others find it extremely difficult to maintain the drug treatment schedules. You should remember that preventing HIV infection in the first place eliminates the need for people to follow these difficult drug regimens.