HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus to give it its full title, is a special type of virus, known as a retrovirus, which attacks the body’s immune system via the CD4 cells which are found in the blood and would normally be used to fight off infection. As the retrovirus moves through the body, it breaks down and then reassembles the DNA in the body’s cells, so making copies of and spreading the ‘bad’ DNA. As more and more cells are affected, so the immune system becomes weaker and weaker until eventually it stops working altogether, leaving the body vulnerable to fatal diseases and infections. Although there is no cure for HIV, there are treatments available which help most people to live relatively normal lives with the virus, but obviously key to receiving treatment is knowing that you have HIV in the first place and that means taking a confidential HIV test.
How is HIV Transmitted?
HIV is passed from person to person via bodily fluids. Although in some cases it is transmitted through the sharing of needles by intravenous drug abusers, it can also be passed from mothers to their unborn children; can be contracted through accidental needlestick incidents; and can be spread via contaminated blood products. By far the most common way for HIV to be transmitted, however, is through unprotected sexual contact, including through oral and anal sex. Both homosexuals and heterosexuals are at risk from receiving the virus, making it essential for anyone who could potentially have come into contact with a carrier to take a confidential HIV test in order to avoid spreading the virus further and so that they and any other sexual partners can seek treatment.
What is the Relationship Between HIV and AIDS?
When the body reaches the stage where it can no longer provide any immunity against disease or infection and so the individual develops a life-threatening illness such as cancer, pneumonia or tuberculosis, this is known as AIDS, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Essentially, AIDS is simply the advanced or late stage of HIV. Those who take a confidential HIV test and take advantage of the many new treatments for HIV which have been developed in more recent years can often slow down the spread of the virus and extend their life expectancy greatly. Without such treatment, HIV is likely to spread much more quickly and the AIDS stage is reached much sooner.
What Does a Confidential HIV Test Involve?
In most cases, a confidential HIV test simply involves taking a small amount of blood from the arm for testing, although in certain instances saliva or urine can also be used. The test itself looks for HIV antibodies in the blood, saliva or urine and basically if these are found, this indicates the presence of HIV in the system. Antibodies are only produced by the body to try and fight back against the virus, but it does take time for this to happen. In most cases, antibodies will be present within three months of being exposed to the virus, but it could take as long as six months for there to be sufficient levels to show up in the test. Anyone receiving a negative result within three months of potential exposure to the virus is therefore advised to take a further confidential HIV test six months after the last activity which may have led to infection to make absolutely certain that they are clear.