How to Know If You Have HIV

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According to avert.org, more than one million Americans are living with HIV today, and more than half of these are not aware that they are infected. The special nature of HIV, wherein a long phase of the infection is asymptomatic, makes this possible, and it is therefore important to take active steps to know your HIV status.

Knowing your status

Be regularly screened for HIV. After infection, some people will experience brief flu-like symptoms, but many people do not develop symptoms until their HIV has advanced to AIDS, the point at which the immune system can no longer effectively combat infection.

Visit a local testing center to be tested if you think you may have been exposed to HIV. Most people develop a detectable level of antibodies to HIV within a month after infection, but it can sometimes take up to six months, so it is important to be re-screened within three to six months after possible exposure.

Follow through on further recommended testing. A test performed before antibodies to HIV develop will return a false negative. There is also a possibility of a false-positive result, which is why all initial positives are re-screened with a more sensitive test.

Tips & Warnings

  • Visit hivtest.org to find a testing site near you. This website includes which sites offer free and anonymous services. Use the information provided by HIV counselors to help reduce your risk of infection in the future.
  • Do not assume you can tell whether you or someone else is HIV-positive. The asymptomatic latent period of HIV infection leaves no physical indications, so neither you nor anyone else can tell whether infection is present just by looking. The only definite way to know is to be tested.

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