Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the immune system, the body’s natural defense against disease. If left untreated, HIV can weaken the immune system so much that it can no longer fight infection. This late stage of the virus, known as AIDS, can be deadly.
HIV is a serious condition that can affect people of all ages, genders and sexual orientations. Though around 40,000 people are diagnosed with HIV in the United States every year, as many as one in seven people living with HIV don’t know they have it.
Here’s the good news: detecting HIV and getting treatment is easier today than ever before. People living with the virus can have long, healthy and happy lives. Let’s take a look at the importance of HIV testing and what benefits it can provide.
Why Is Getting Tested for HIV Important?
Taking an HIV test is the only way to know if you have the virus. Because symptoms of AIDS can take years to develop, it’s essential to get tested even if you feel fine. Knowing your HIV status — whether you test positive or negative for the disease — is a vital step in getting treatment and preventing the disease from spreading.
HIV spreads from person to person through bodily fluids like blood and semen. This means that some of the most common ways people contract HIV are through unprotected sex and sharing needles during drug use. If you’ve engaged in these behaviors with someone whose HIV status is unknown, it’s important to get tested. Once you know your status, you can get treatment and take steps to avoid spreading HIV to others.
What Are the Benefits of HIV Testing?
Knowing your HIV status is a great way to protect your health and the health of the people you care about. There are many benefits of getting tested for HIV, whether your results are negative or positive:
- The test is fast and easy: During an HIV test, doctors take a blood or saliva sample to analyze. You’ll know whether you have the virus in around 20 minutes. An HIV test is almost always free.
- You can live a healthier life: If your test results show you have HIV, you can get the treatment you need to stay healthy. Today, antiretroviral drugs make it possible for people with HIV to live long, normal lives.
- You can protect your partners: When you know your HIV status, you can take steps to protect your current and future sexual partners and encourage previous partners to get tested, as well.
- It can give you peace of mind: If you think you might have HIV, you might feel nervous about getting tested. It’s normal to feel worried about your status, but it’s always better to take action than to ignore your concern. Getting an HIV test can give you peace of mind.
Ready to Get Tested for HIV?
There are many advantages of HIV testing for those at risk. If you’re ready to know your HIV status, call or contact Hamilton Health Center to make an appointment. We offer free, confidential HIV testing Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. We’re proud to offer HIV testing and support to all Central Pennsylvania residents, regardless of age, income and insurance status as well as STD testing for all other diseases.