You're worried that you might have contracted HIV or maybe you would just like to Get-Tested for peace of mind. Either way, you've come to the right place - on this page we will explain a few the different HIV testing options available as well their pros and cons.
Types of HIV Tests1. HIV PCR
Price: R1950 per test
Description: The HIV PCR tests directly for HIV genetic material in your blood in the form of either DNA or RNA. It uses the polymerase chain reaction technique to generate multiple copies of any HIV genetic material to make even the slightest amount detectable.
Pros: PCR has one of the lowest window period (period in which no virus is detectable) of all the tests. Some literature claims it can detect the virus within 3 days of infection.
Cons: PCR is one of the most expensive test on offer and takes the longest to get the result. For regular screening purposes it is probably better (and much cheaper) to take one of the other test options.
Price: R550 per test
Description: This test detects HIV antigen and antibodies in your blood using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).
Pros: The ELISA test is the best of both worlds, it is not as costly as the PCR and extremely accurate with misdiagnosis rates quoted at below 1%
Cons: ELISA does still require going to a laboratory and for the blood to be processed formally. Although usually faster than the PCR (results on the same day) there is still a waiting period that can be uncomfortable. The window period is also longer in the ELISA at around 2-4 weeks.
Stages of HIV & Symptoms
HIV symptoms in Men
The signs, stages and symptoms of HIV infection in men can change depending on the infection's stage.
It's crucial to remember that not every person with HIV will exhibit symptoms, especially in the beginning. However, some typical signs that may affect men are as follows:
Acute Retroviral Syndrome (ARS): This condition, which manifests 2-4 weeks after initial virus exposure, is also referred to as the primary or acute HIV infection stage. At this stage, you might experience flu-like symptoms like:
- Throat ache
- joint and muscle pain
- enlarged lymph nodes
- a skin rash
Asymptomatic Stage: Following the acute stage, some people may go months or even years without exhibiting any symptoms at all. The virus continues to replicate and harm the immune system during this phase.
Stage of Symptomatology: As the immune system deteriorates further, symptoms may start to show. These signs and symptoms are brought on by opportunistic infections that prey on a compromised immune system. At this point, common symptoms include:
- ongoing fever
- sweats at night
- Unaccounted-for weight loss
- persistent diarrhea
- respiratory infections that recur
- (White patches in the mouth) Oral thrush
- persistent sores or rashes on the skin
- lymph nodes that have been persistently swollen
It is important to keep in mind that these symptoms alone do not always signify HIV infection because they can also be linked to other diseases. Only specific blood tests for the HIV virus can determine whether someone has the virus.
HIV symptoms in Women
The signs and symptoms of HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) can differ from person to person and between men and women. While HIV symptoms can generally be seen in both sexes, some symptoms may be more noticeable or unique to women due to their biological and physiological makeup.
Early signs of HIV infection in women can include:
- Flu-like symptoms include body aches, fatigue, headaches, and fever that are similar to the flu or other viral infections.
- Lymph nodes that are swollen and tender may develop, especially in the groin, armpits, and neck
- Rash: The skin may develop a red or pink rash that is itchy and occasionally accompanied by tiny bumps.
- Yeast infections (Candida) or bacterial vaginosis may be recurrent or extremely severe in women with HIV.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of the reproductive organs that can cause pelvic pain and possible fertility problems, is more likely to affect HIV-positive women.
- Changes in menstruation, such as irregular cycles or heavier-than-normal bleeding.
- Weakness and fatigue: Experiencing fatigue and weakness without any apparent cause.
- Unexpected weight loss may indicate the progression of HIV.
- Night sweats: Excessive perspiration while you're trying to sleep.
It's crucial to remember that some HIV-positive people may go for years without showing any symptoms, and this time frame can vary greatly from person to person.
Understanding HIV Test Results
A negative HIV test
This result indicates that there were no antibodies or antigens for HIV found in the sample. A false-negative result is possible, though, if the test was performed during the window period (the interval between HIV infection and the emergence of detectable antibodies). It is crucial to get tested a second time after the window period or if there is a possibility of recent exposure for accurate results.
A positive HIV test result
This result means that HIV antibodies or antigens were found in the sample, proving that the subject is HIV-positive. In order to confirm the diagnosis, a positive result necessitates immediate follow-up testing. If the presence of HIV is confirmed, then you should get treatment and begin antiretroviral therapy (ART) right away to effectively control the virus.
In some circumstances, test results may be ambiguous or indeterminate, which means they may not be categorically positive or negative. To accurately ascertain the person's HIV status in such cases, additional testing is required.
Cure for HIV
HIV is a complex virus that targets the immune system, in particular the CD4 cells (also known as T cells), which are crucial for fending off infections and diseases. Once a person contracts HIV, the virus stays in their body for the rest of their life.
But there has been a lot of progress in medicine to effectively manage HIV. Since the middle of the 1990s, antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been the accepted method of HIV treatment. In ART, a variety of drugs are used to suppress the virus's ability to replicate, allowing the immune system to heal and perform better. HIV-infected people can live reasonably healthy lives and the virus can be lowered to undetectable levels in the blood with the proper and consistent use of ART.
In addition to antiretroviral therapy (ART), researchers are constantly looking into new treatment options, such as immunotherapies and long-acting therapies, to enhance the management of HIV and improve the quality of life for those infected with the virus. Despite these developments, it's critical to remember that there is still no full cure for HIV.
It's crucial to support scientific efforts in this area as the search for an HIV cure is still an ongoing endeavor. In order to stop the spread of the virus, public health initiatives, education, and awareness about HIV prevention and testing are also essential. For lowering complications associated with HIV and promoting a healthier future for those affected, regular testing, early detection, and accessibility to quality medical care are crucial.
There are many different methods to know your HIV status and there's no better time to know than right now. For screening purposes it is definitely a great choice to start looking at either the rapid or ELISA. Don't forget the rest of the STDs too as they are far more common and as just as destructive when left unchecked.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it possible to get HIV on your tongue?
Yes, if you come into contact with the virus, you could contract HIV and get it on your tongue or any other area of mucous membrane in your mouth. Blood, semen, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, and breastfeeding milk are among the bodily fluids that can transmit HIV. Unprotected sexual contact, sharing needles or injection supplies with an HIV-positive person, and transmission from a mother who is HIV-positive to her child during childbirth or breastfeeding are the most common ways that HIV is spread.
What are HIV tablets?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) tablets, also referred to as antiretroviral drugs or antiretroviral therapy (ART), are medicines used to treat HIV infection. These pills are a crucial component of HIV management because they prevent the virus from replicating, which enables the immune system to heal and perform better. Daily HIV tablets are taken, and the precise drug combination prescribed may change depending on a person's viral load, resistance profile, and other variables. Individuals with HIV can achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load by consistently taking these pills as directed. This improves health outcomes and lowers the risk of HIV transmission to others.
What are the signs or symptoms of HIV in the urine?
Urine testing cannot reveal HIV symptoms. HIV does not show symptoms in urine; instead, it mostly impacts the immune system. Specific blood tests that look for HIV antibodies or antigens in the blood are used to diagnose HIV infection.
Some people may experience flu-like symptoms in the early stages of HIV infection, including fever, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, sore throats, and body aches. However, these signs and symptoms are not specific to HIV and can be brought on by a number of other conditions.