Know your status.

On January 26, my partner and I got tested for HIV. Here are few things you need to know about HIV and the test:

A. What is HIV?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. If left untreated, HIV can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). Unlike some other viruses, the human body can’t get rid of HIV completely. So once you have HIV, you have it for the rest of your life. HIV attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells (T cells), which help the immune system fight off infections. If left untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the body, making the person more likely to get infections or infection-related cancers. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. These opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system and signal that the person has AIDS, the last state of HIV infection. (Lifted from: https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/hiv-aids-101/what-is-hiv-aids/)

B. Is there a cure for HIV?

No effective cure for HIV currently exists, but with proper treatment and medical care, HIV can be controlled. The medicine used to treat HIV is called antiretroviral therapy or ART. If taken the right way, every day, this medicine can dramatically prolong the lives of many people with HIV, keep them healthy, and greatly lower their chance of transmitting the virus to others.  Today, a person who is diagnosed with HIV, treated before the disease is far advanced, and stays on treatment can live a nearly as long as someone who does not have HIV. (Lifted from: https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/hiv-aids-101/what-is-hiv-aids/)

C. How do I know if I have HIV?

The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. The HIV test is designed to detect antibodies to HIV. Antibodies are produced by the body to help fight infection. If you are infected with HIV, your body makes very specific antibodies to fight this type infection. People need to understand that there’s a window period – the period where the body’s starting to produce antibodies against HIV.

D. What is the window period?

The window period is the time it takes for your body to produce HIV antibodies after you have been exposed to HIV. In more than 97% of people, this period lasts between 2 and 12 weeks. In a very small number of people, the process takes up to 6 months (Lifted from: https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/hiv-aids-101/what-is-hiv-aids/). If you took the test today and but at risk of contacting HIV for some reason (e.g. accidental needle prick), you need to get tested again after 6 months.

E. Where can I get tested for HIV?

There are several clinics (and hospitals) across the country that offer HIV testing services. Most of these facilities also offer (mandatory) pre- and post-counseling services. My partner and I visited Love Yourself’s branch at Gil Puyat in Pasay City. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Fill up the online application form: http://www.loveyourself.ph/p/i-want-to-get-tested.html
  2. Visit the clinic and tell the employee at the front desk that you wish to get tested for HIV.
  3. Fill-up a form asking for your (1) consent, and (2) basic demographic profile. (NOTE: The test is completely ANONYMOUS, CONFIDENTIAL, and FREE)
  4. The front desk staff will provide you a queuing number.
  5. Wait until the medical technologist announces your queuing number then head to the med tech room where they’ll extract your blood.
  6. Bring back the filled-up form to the front desk staff.
  7. Wait until an HIV counselor calls your number for the release of the result and post-counseling.

F. Others

The whole procedure lasted for about an hour. The staff of the clinic were friendly, professional, and very accommodating. There were about 15 other people when we entered the testing site. Should you wish to do an “ultra-discreet screening” visit this: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSckIfIy6el8r8IedMrfcnVqirN7aWhkHmjwzIiwkBg1hfU23A/viewform?formkey=dFNsN19uZWFDS1doVjhJUFFRU1NqZXc6MQ&fromEmail=true.

For more information, visit http://www.loveyourself.ph/

Here is a list of other HIV test sites: http://www.loveyourself.ph/p/hct.html

 

What’s my status? Negative. But I plan to take the test at least every 6 months as I’m exposed to risks because of the nature of my profession. I encourage everyone to take the test as well. Do this for yourself and the rest of the society. Let us end the chain. Let us break the stigma (because even ‘straight’ men and women get HIV). Stay on the healthy side of statistics! 🙂

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