Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 1st 2013 Contents A46
What is a HIV test?
A: A HIV test is a test that reveals
whether HIV is present in the body.
Commonly-used HIV tests detect the
antibodies produced by the immune sys-
tem in response to HIV, as it is much
easier (and cheaper) to detect antibod-
ies than the virus itself. Antibodies are
produced by the immune system in re-
sponse to an infection.
For most people, it takes three
months for these antibodies to develop.
In rare cases, it can take up to six
months. During this "window period" of
early infection a person is at their most
Q: How long after possible expo-
sure should I wait to be tested
A: Generally, it is recommended that
you wait three months after possible ex-
posure before being tested for HIV. Al-
though HIV antibody tests are very
sensitive, there is a 'window period' of 3
to 12 weeks, which is the period be-
tween infection with HIV and the ap-
pearance of detectable antibodies to the
virus. In the case of the most sensitive
anti-HIV tests currently recommended,
the window period is about three weeks.
This period may be longer if less sensi-
tive tests are used.
During the window period, people in-
fected with HIV have no antibodies in
their blood that can be detected by an
HIV test. However, the person may al-
ready have high levels of HIV in their
body fluids such as blood, semen, vagi-
nal fluids and breast milk. HIV can be
passed on to another person during the
window period even though an HIV test
may not show that you are infected
Q: Why should I get a HIV test?
A: Knowing your HIV status has two
vital benefits. Firstly, if you are HIV posi-
tive, you can take necessary steps be-
fore symptoms appear to access
treatment, care and support services,
thereby potentially prolonging your life
for many years.
Secondly, if you know you are infected,
you can take all the necessary precau-
tions to prevent the spread of HIV to
Thirdly, your health care provider may
recommend it, for example if you are
pregnant and want to protect your un-
born child. It may also be recommended
by your health care provider if you are
unwell, in order to obtain a more accu-
rate medical assessment.
Q: Where can I get tested?
A: There are many places where you
can be tested for HIV: in the offices of a
private doctor, a local health depart-
ment, hospitals, family planning clinics
and sites specifically set up for HIV test-
ing. Always try to find testing at a place
where counselling is provided.
In some communities home-based
counselling and testing are available and
can include couples counselling and sup-
port for safe post test disclosure of re-
Q: Are my test results confiden-
A: The results of the HIV test must be
kept absolutely confidential.
Before you take a HIV test you must
give informed consent prior to being
tested. Ideally it is given individually, in
private, in the presence of a health care
This means your health care provider
should provide certain pre-test informa-
tion to you and give you the opportunity
for your questions to be answered.
There are different types of testing
Confidential HIV test: the medical pro-
fessionals handling the HIV test keep
the result of the test confidential within
the medical records. Results cannot be
shared with another individual unless
written permission is provided by the
Anonymous HIV test: the tested per-
son's name is not used in connection
with the test. Instead, a code or number
is assigned to the test, which allows the
individual being tested to receive the re-
sults of the test. No records are kept
that would link the person to the test.
Shared confidentiality is encouraged
and refers to confidentiality that is
shared with others that might include
family members, loved ones, caregivers,
and trusted friends.
However, care should be taken when
revealing the results as it can lead to
discrimination in healthcare, profes-
sional and social settings. Shared confi-
dentiality is therefore at the discretion
of the person who will be tested. Al-
though the result of the HIV test should
be kept confidential, other professionals
such as counsellors and health and so-
cial service workers might also need to
be aware of the person's HIV-positive
status in order to provide appropriate
Every person who takes a HIV test
must receive counselling when their test
results are given, regardless of the test
result. You should have access to post
test counselling regardless of the result
of the HIV test. Pre test counselling was
a core component of the original volun-
tary counselling and testing which was
designed to assist clients to assess
other personal risks and to identify prac-
tical strategies to cope with their test
results. This model sees counselling and
testing as both a primary and secondary
prevention strategy (reducing risk of
HIV exposure and onward transmis-
sion). However, in many settings pre-
test group information now replaces
individualized pre-test counselling.
A: Thanks to new treatments, many
people with HIV are living longer, health-
ier lives. It is very important to make
sure you have a doctor who knows how
to treat HIV. A healthcare professional
or trained HIV counsellor can provide
counselling and help you to find an ap-
Peer support can be very helpful for
management of HIV -- ask your counsel-
lor. In addition, you can do the following
to stay healthy:
Follow your doctor's instructions. Keep
your appointments. If your doctor pre-
scribes medicine for you, take it exactly
Get immunizations to prevent infections
such as pneumonia and flu (after con-
sultation with your physician).
Eat healthy foods and use safe drinking
Exercise regularly to stay strong and fit.
Get enough sleep and rest.
You should also try to:
• Access individual counselling that can
give you information about prevention,
care and treatment options.
• Seek support for disclosure to your
partner and couples counselling.
• Follow-up with HIV testing and coun-
selling for your partners and children.
• Follow your doctor's advice on safer
sex and risk reduction.
• Get screening and treatment for other
diseases including TB, malaria and
other sexually transmitted infections.
• If you are pregnant, it is important that
you get information on the prevention
of mother-to-child transmission and
advice on infant feeding.
Q: What does it mean if I test
negative for HIV?
A: A negative test result means that
no HIV antibodies were found in your
blood at the time of testing. If you are
negative, make sure you stay that way:
learn the facts about HIV transmission
and prevention avoid engaging in unsafe
behaviour. However, there is still a possi-
bility of being infected, since it can take
up to three months for your immune
system to produce enough antibodies to
show infection in a blood test.
It is advisable to be re-tested at a later
date, and to take appropriate precau-
tions in the meantime. During the win-
dow period, a person is highly infectious,
and should therefore take measures to
prevent any possible transmission.
Info courtesy https://hiv.opm.gov.tt
Links Archive November 30th 2013 December 2nd 2013 Navigation Previous Page Next Page