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HIV Testing Day



27 June 2021 is HIV Testing Day under the theme “My Test, My Way” which emphasize the various methods of HIV testing which are available. This day encourages people to get tested for HIV so they are aware of their status and can be connected to treatment and care.

While 75% of people globally who are living with HIV are aware of their status , in many countries with a high prevalence such as Kenya, more than 50% of the 1.6 million people living with HIV are not aware of their status.

HIV testing and counselling is used to ensure that people are aware of their status and provided with confidential and adequate counselling and information on prevention, care and treatment. Rapid HIV antibody/antigen tests conducted by trained health care professionals through a finger prick, provide a reliable result within 20 minutes.

However, there is a window period where rapid tests may be unable to detect if one has the virus. Antigen tests can detect HIV infection 18-45 days after exposure, while antibody tests can detect HIV infection 23-90 days after exposure.

A nucleic acid test can be used to test for HIV as early as 10 days after exposure to HIV as it detects if your blood has the actual HIV virus and is able to confirm the viral load.

The benefits of HIV testing



HIV testing is important as one being aware of their status keeps themselves and their loved ones HIV negative, facilitates early treatment if someone is diagnosed with HIV, prevents deaths and empowers people to make informed choices about their health.

HIV testing is also important for those living with HIV who are consistent with their anti-retroviral treatment (ART) , as regular testing can monitor if their viral loads measure between 20-50 copies in their blood which means they are unable to transmit HIV through sex . This is where the term viral suppression and the slogan undetectable=untransmissible is used.

For serodiscordant couples, HIV testing in combination with treatment and prevention methods ensures that they are able to support each other and maintain a healthy relationship.


Where to get an HIV test



HIV tests are usually free with public health care facilities and HIV service providers, while you will have to pay with a private health care providers. You can test for HIV through the following avenues:

HIV self-testing

HIV self-testing is a method of testing which allows people to find out their status at a place and time convenient for them. This is an important avenue as it reduces stigma, is voluntary, and targets populations which have previously been excluded from HIV testing programming.

This method of testing is also important during the pandemic where many face to face services may be limited, self-testing can be a convenient way to know your status.

HIV self-testing kits such as the OraQuick HIV self-test , provides results in as little as twenty minutes through the use of oral fluid as a specimen. For those that are unaware of their status or had a previous negative test, one can also conduct a self-test where they take a small blood sample from a finger prick and read the results within 15 minutes.

HIV Self-testing Kits can be found through private and public health care facilities, and various organisations such as the Terrence Higgins Trust

Similar to rapid HIV test, HIV self-tests are unable to detect recent HIV infections. In addition, if one receives a positive result, one must confirm with a follow up test, usually with a health care provider who can provide counselling and advice on prevention, treatment, and care.


Sources



Centres for Disease Control and Prevention HIV/basics/HIV-testing/test-types


World Health Organisation HIV testing and counselling


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