What is HIV?
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS. It destroys specific cells that are part of the immune system. These cells, called CD4 cells or T-cells, help the body fight infection and disease. A person who is infected with HIV may feel and appear healthy for some time. During this time, though, the virus is destroying T-cells. When the amount of T-cells is too low, the person is likely to get sick. He/she is then said to have acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Say yes to this test. The results impact everyone.
More than 1.2 million people in the U.S. have HIV. But one in seven Americans living with HIV don’t even know they have it. They’re not getting the treatment they need, and they may be unaware that they are passing HIV to others.
For the sake of personal and public safety, routine testing is the norm. The Centers for Disease control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone who is 13-64 years old get tested for HIV at least once. That’s why your doctor may ask you on a routine basis if you want to get tested. Even if you are not instructed by your doctor to get tested, you can elect to order your own screening for HIV with our My Lab ReQuest service. Of course, HIV testing is always voluntary. It’s up to you.
HIV testing: the only sure way to know
Only an HIV test can confirm whether a person is infected. That’s why HIV screening is so critical. Fortunately, screening has gotten even better. The newest way to screen is with the 4th generation test. Like the 3rd generation test, it’s a convenient blood test. It can detect HIV up to 20 days earlier than the 3rd generation test can. When you get tested with Sonora Quest Laboratories the 4th generation test will be used. No matter which test is done, the most important thing is to just get tested.
Both women and men should be tested to protect themselves, each other, and their future children. Some people don’t know if they’ve been tested for HIV. Others say they don’t need to be tested. Still others tested “negative” a long time ago but have put themselves at risk recently. Often people who put themselves at risk never talk about it. Because life is complex, it’s best for everyone to have an HIV test. You may want to ask your partner to get tested too.
Getting your test results?
Most people test “negative” for HIV. Once you know for sure, you can choose whether or not to get tested in the future. The CDC recommends regular testing for people at high risk. This includes gay and bisexual men, injection drug users, and people with more than one sex partner. It’s also a good idea for you and a new partner to be tested before you start a sexual relationship. And pregnant women should be tested early in their pregnancy.
If you do happen to test “positive”, early HIV treatment can help. Many people with HIV live long, healthy lives, and some don’t even feel sick. They visit their doctors for routine checkups and take medicine to prevent HIV from developing into AIDS. If you test positive, you can learn what to do to keep from passing on HIV to the people you love.
Who really gets HIV?
Fact: Anyone can get HIV. Men and women of all sexual orientations, all ages, and all races can get it. People from every walk of life, including married people and those in a committed relationship, can get it. A person who injects drugs, even once, can get it. People with HIV can pass it on to their sexual partners. A women with HIV can pass the infection to her baby during pregnancy, labor, or breastfeeding.
How serious is HIV?
HIV is a serious infection. Unlike other viruses, a person with HIV cannot completely get rid of the virus. If untreated, the virus leads to AIDS. A person with AIDS might have serious infections or heart, kidney, and liver disease. Certain cancers are also linked to AIDS. But treatment can control the virus and prevent the damage. So a person who has HIV and gets treated can live for decades and remain in good health.
How is HIV treated?
HIV is treated using antiretrovial therapy (ART). ART usually includes 3 drugs. These 3 drugs attack the virus in at least 2 different ways. This is important because 1 drug cannot control the virus by itself. Your doctor will select the 3 drugs for you. Then he/she will monitor you regularly to see how they are working.
How can you prevent HIV?
HIV can be spread by people who don't know they are infected. To protect yourself and others:
- Practice safe sex. Use a condom every time you have sex (including oral sex) until you are sure you and your partner are not infected with HIV.
- Don't have more than one sex partner at a time. The safest sex is with one partner who has sex only with you.
- Talk to your partner before you have sex the first time. Find out if he or she is at risk for HIV. Get tested together and retested 6 months later. Use condoms in the meantime.
- Don't drink a lot of alcohol or use illegal drugs before sex. You might let down your guard and not practice safe sex.
- Don't share personal items, such as toothbrushes or razors.
- Never share needles or syringes with anyone.
Sonora Quest Laboratories is committed to the fight against HIV and AIDS, supporting various programs and fund-raising events through Aunt Rita’s Foundation, the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation, and the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS. Our expansive HIV test offerings allow us to assist doctors and patients in all stages of the disease.
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