Am I at risk?

Am I at risk?
ANYONE can get HIV. HIV does not discriminate. HIV is about your personal practices not about whom or how you are. HIV positive individuals are young and old, gay and straight, men and women.

You are at increased risk of infection if you have:
• Injected drugs or steroids and shared the equipment with others. For example; the needles, syringes, cotton or water.
• Had unprotected sex. “Unprotected,” means that you did not use condoms.
• Exchanged sex for drugs or money.
• Had unprotected sex with someone who has any of these risk factors.

If you meet any of these criteria, please go to your doctor or local clinic or Planned Parenthood or health department and get tested. Getting tested is the only way to know for sure.

If you decide to go to a local clinic or health department, you will be taken in the back by an educator. This individual will take you through the whole process from beginning to end. They will first talk to you about your sexual practices. Now, this conversation is going to get really detailed and personal, so be prepared. There is nothing that you can say that will shock or embarrass the educator so take a deep breath. They have heard everything under the sun and are there to help you get through this process. So be honest with them. It is not an interrogation; they need the facts in order to give you the information you need.

Once you have discussed safe sex practices, it is on to the test. There are two ways they can administer the test. One way is by using OraSure. OraSure is a small device that looks like a toothbrush. You put it in your mouth for three minutes, (It’s a little salty). It is painless and effective in detecting the HIV-1 antibodies. Once the test is over, you will see them put the tube in a clear tube and then they will send it off for processing.

The other way they can test for HIV is the good old fashioned way, blood test. This is done by taking a small blood sample from a finger stick. There is just a small amount of pain involved. This test can detect HIV-1 and HIV-2.

Depending on the equipment of the facility, you can sometimes see the results develop right in front of your eyes. If they facility doesn’t have that type of equipment on hand, they will send the blood sample off to a lab for testing. This can take anywhere from three days to seven days for the results to come back.

Now the time that you have to wait for the results to come back in can be nerve-wrecking. You start asking yourself,”What if?” questions and watching the calendar. The days will seemingly crawl by… relax. The test is not going to take any longer than absolutely necessary.

Once you go back in, time itself will seem to stand still. Remember to breath. It is not as bad you think. If you are negative, they will discuss safe sex practices, give you some pamphlets and condoms and send you on your way.

If you are positive, they will talk to you about your feelings and start you on the path to finding a specialist and finding support for you now that you know.

Believe it or not, knowing is much better than speculating. Now that you know, you can take the steps you need to keep yourself healthy. You can begin to see specialist, get medication if necessary. Your doctor needs to be made aware so that if you don’t need to take medicine now; they can continue to keep an eye on your to make sure that your immune system is healthy and not being overrun by the HIV virus.

A positive HIV result is not a death sentence. There are all kinds of medications out now to help reduce the replication of HIV in the body and to rebuild the immune system. There are people that have been living with the virus for ten to twenty years. It is possible as long as you get the help you need.

Education is the most powerful tool we have against HIV/AIDS.

Be Aware…. Get Educated….STAY ALIVE!

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