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The Importance of Rapid Testing

There are 241,373 registered cases of HIV and AIDS in Mexico (first trimester, 2016). According to studies, only half of the population living with HIV is aware of it.

People at higher risk should get tested more often. If you were HIV-negative the last time you were tested, and that test was more than one year ago, and you answer yes to any of the following questions, you should get an HIV test as soon as possible because these things increase your chances of getting the virus:

Are you a man who has had sex with another man?

Have you had sex—anal or vaginal—with an HIV-positive partner?

Have you had more than one sex partner since your last HIV test?

Have you injected drugs and shared needles or works (for example, water or cotton) with others?

Have you exchanged sex for drugs or money?

Have you been diagnosed with or sought treatment for another sexually transmitted disease?

Have you been diagnosed with or treated for hepatitis or tuberculosis (TB)?

Have you had sex with someone who could answer yes to any of the above questions or someone whose sexual history you don’t know?

You should be tested at least once a year if you keep doing any of these things. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent testing (for example, every 3 to 6 months).

If you’re pregnant, talk to your health care provider about getting tested for HIV and other ways to protect you and your child from getting HIV.

Before having sex for the first time with a new partner, you and your partner should talk about your sexual and drug-use history, disclose your HIV status, and consider getting tested for HIV and learning the results.

How can testing help me?

Knowing your HIV status gives you powerful information to help you take steps to keep you and others healthy. For example:

Knowing your HIV status can bring you peace of mind and getting tested is the only way to have an accurate answer.

If you and your partner know your HIV status, you can make informed decisions about your sexual practices and ways to remain healthy.

If an HIV-positive woman is treated for HIV early in her pregnancy, the risk of transmitting HIV to her baby is very low.

If you test positive, you can take medicine to treat HIV to stay healthy for many years and greatly reduce the chance of transmitting HIV to your sex partner.

If you test positive, you can take measures to prevent others from becoming infected.

I don’t think I’m at risk. Should I still get tested?

Many people that test positive were not even aware they were at risk. This is why CENSIDA (Mexico’s National AIDS Prevention Center) recommends all individuals between 13 and 64 years of age, to get tested for HIV at least once, as part of their routine medical checkup.

Even if you are in a monogamous relationship (one where you and your partner only have sexual relations with each other), you must learn your HIV status with certainty.

When should I get tested?

The immune system usually takes between three and eight weeks to produce HIV antibodies after exposure. However, HIV tests vary in their ability to detect antibodies at different time frames. While most HIV tests aim to detect these antibodies, some are designed to detect the virus itself. The time between when a person may have been exposed to HIV and when a test can tell for sure whether they have HIV is called the window period.

In order to determine the ideal time to get tested, you must take into account the moment in which you might have become in contact with the virus and the type of test to be used. Your health care can offer guidance to select the HIV test that is right for you.

Window periods vary from individual to individual. If you tested positive within the first three months of a possible virus exposure, you must get tested again three months afterwards. Ninety-seven percent of people will develop antibodies within the first three months of infection. In rare cases, it can take up to six months to produce HIV antibodies.

What should I expect when I go in for an HIV test?

When it’s time to take the test, a health care provider will offer pre- and post-test counseling, and take your sample (blood or oral fluid), and you may be able to wait for the results if it’s a rapid HIV test. If the test comes back negative, and you haven’t had an exposure for 3 months, you can be confident you’re not infected with HIV.

If your HIV test result is positive, you may need to get a follow-up test to be sure you have HIV.

Your healthcare provider or counselor may talk with you about your risk factors, answer questions about your general health, and discuss next steps with you, especially if your result is positive.

If I have a negative test result, does that mean that my partner is HIV-negative also?

No. Your HIV test result reveals only your HIV status. HIV is not necessarily transmitted every time you have sex. Therefore, taking an HIV test is not a way to find out if your partner is infected.

It’s important to be open with your partners and ask them to tell you their HIV status. Consider getting tested together so you can both know your HIV status and take steps to keep yourselves healthy.

If I test positive, does that mean I have AIDS?

No. Being HIV-positive does not mean you have AIDS. AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV disease. HIV can lead to AIDS if a person does not get treatment or take care of their health.

Should I share my positive result with others?

It’s important to share your status with your sex partners. Whether you disclose your status to others is your decision.

Partners

It’s important to disclose your HIV status to your sex partners even if you’re uncomfortable doing it. Communicating with each other about your HIV status means you can take steps to keep both of you healthy. The more practice you have disclosing your HIV status, the easier it will become.

Many resources can help you learn ways to disclose your status to your partners. For tips on how to start the conversation with your partners, seek advice from your healthcare provider.

If you’re nervous about disclosing your test result, or you have been threatened or injured by your partner, you can ask your doctor or the local health department to tell them that they might have been exposed to HIV. This is called partner notification services. Health departments do not reveal your name to your partners. They will only tell your partners that they have been exposed to HIV and should get tested.

Family and friends

In most cases, your family and friends will not know your test results or HIV status unless you tell them yourself. While telling your family that you have HIV may seem hard, you should know that disclosure has many benefits—studies have shown that people who disclose their HIV status respond better to treatment than those who don’t.

 

If you are under 18, the decision to share your results with your parents is still yours.

Employers

In most cases, your employer will not know your HIV status unless you tell them. But your employer does have a right to ask if you have any health conditions that would affect your ability to do your job or pose a serious risk to others. (An example might be a health care professional, like a surgeon, who does procedures where there is a risk of blood or other body fluids being exchanged.)

Who will pay for my treatment if I am HIV-positive?

If you have IMSS or ISSSTE (in Mexico), these organizations are under obligation to cover your HIV medications. If you don’t have medical insurance, the Secretary of Health’s Popular Insurance guarantees medical attention and medications.