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HIV testing and treatment

HIV testing is very important. It’s the only way to know if you have HIV or not. If your test is positive, you can start HIV treatment early to keep you healthy. You might feel nervous but it is better to know.

What happens during an HIV test?

Getting an HIV test is quick, easy and almost always free. Check online to find services near you or visit your local clinic/health centre.

There are different types of HIV tests. You will be asked to give a small sample of blood from your finger or a saliva sample from your mouth. If you’re taking a rapid test, you will get your results in 20 minutes. For other types of tests, it may take a few days. If your test is positive, you’ll be asked to have a second test to check your result before starting treatment.

It’s normal to feel nervous before going for an HIV test and you might want to take a friend along for support. Remember that HIV testing is confidential - no one will know your results unless you tell them. Depending on your age you may need to get permission for a test from a parent or caregiver. If this is difficult, talk to your health care provider - they can help and are there to answer any questions you may have.

What treatment is available for HIV and how does it work?

HIV is treated using drugs called anti-retrovirals (ARVs) or anti-retroviral therapy (ART). ART doesn’t cure HIV, but it helps to keep the virus under control. It works by reducing the amount of HIV in the blood (called ‘viral load’) and helping to prevent infections. When ART works really well, it can reduce a person’s viral load to such low levels that tests can’t measure it - this is called being ‘undetectable’. Although the person still has HIV, it is being kept under control by the treatment, they can no longer pass on HIV and live a long life. Without treatment, HIV damages the body’s immune system so that it can no longer fight infections.

Starting ART early helps people living with HIV to stay healthy, that’s why HIV testing is so important. Once someone starts ART, they’ll need to take treatment every day for the rest of their life, otherwise the treatment can stop working properly and they can become ill.

There are lots of dangerous myths about cures for HIV. Having sex with a virgin will NOT cure HIV, nor will herbal remedies and medicines.

What have you learned? Find out now with our Quiz - All about HIV.

All about HIV Quiz

A woman living with HIV have a baby born without HIV. True or false?

Select one

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