HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks cells in the immune system (CD4 cells). These cells help the body fight all sorts of infections. As HIV destroys more CD4 cells and makes more copies of itself, it gradually weakens a person’s immune system. First identified in 1981, HIV is the cause of one of humanity’s most deadly and persistent epidemics. This virus makes a person vulnerable to other infections and diseases. HIV is spread by contact with certain bodily fluids of a person infected with HIV. This most commonly happens during unprotected sex (sex without condoms or HIV medicine to prevent or treat HIV). A person can also get infected through sharing injection drug equipment with the infected person. If left untreated, HIV can lead to the disease called AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). It is important to highlight that there is no known cure for HIV, and people who get infected have to live with the infection for the rest of their lives.
However, HIV medicine called ART (antiretroviral therapy) allows people with HIV to live long and healthy lives also preventing the transmission of HIV to their sexual partners. There are also other effective methods to prevent getting HIV through sex or drug use, which include pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).
What is AIDS?
AIDS is the last stage of HIV infection. It occurs due to HIV causing severe damage to the body’s immune system. Taking HIV medicine every day as prescribed will stop the progression of the disease, and this is the main reason why most people that have the virus in the U.S. typically don’t develop AIDS.
A person with HIV is considered to have developed AIDS if:
- The number of their CD4 cells falls below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood. In a healthy person, CD4 counts are between 500 and 1600 cells per cubic millimeter.
- They develop one or more opportunistic infections regardless of their CD4 count.
People that develop AIDS but are not using HIV medicine typically survive about 3 years, and to those that have developed a dangerous opportunistic illness life expectancy without treatment falls to about a year. Although HIV medicine can still help people at this stage, and even save their lives, people who start using ART right after they get the HIV infection will experience more benefits. This shows how much HIV testing is important.
How does HIV testing work?
There are many different HIV tests, and your healthcare worker at the abortion clinic Fort Lauderdale should explain which tests you are using and how you will get your results.
HIV antibody tests (also called third-generation tests) – When a person gets infected with HIV, their body starts to produce specific antibodies. These antibodies are proteins that attach to the virus to try and destroy it. An HIV antibody test searches for these antibodies in a person’s blood, oral fluid, or urine. If the test shows that these antibodies exist, it means that a person’s body is reacting to HIV and that a person is infected. This test should be conducted three months after the suspected exposure because that is the time needed for the body to produce enough antibodies for the test to show. You can get the results back from this type of test in a few days or a few weeks.
Combined antigen/antibody tests (also called fourth-generation HIV tests) – These tests look for a person’s antibodies as well as p24 antigens, which are part of HIV itself. These antigens are found in a great number in the blood of an infected person in the first few weeks after infection. These tests are reliable from one month after infection, and the results are back after a few days or a few weeks.
Rapid HIV tests – With rapid tests you can get your results on the spot at the laboratory for HIV testing Fort Lauderdale. This test is conducted by taking a prick of blood from your finger, and the results are back in 20 minutes. The test is only accurate three months after exposure, and if it shows positive, a healthcare professional will double-check with a second test.
Self-testing – HIV self-testing can be done in the convenience of your home. However, you should check online to see if it is available where you live since it has not been approved everywhere. It is important to look for CE (Europe) or FDA (USA) marks on the kit to make sure that the test is approved. The next step is simply following instructions on the kit. If a self-test shows positive, it must be confirmed by a healthcare worker.
Where can I do HIV testing in Fort Lauderdale?
If you suspect that you have been exposed to HIV, Aastra Women’s Center is the best place for HIV testing in Fort Lauderdale. Besides the annual physical exam checklist for women, we offer HIV tests for both men and women. We offer a pleasant and comfortable environment with some of the best healthcare providers our country has to offer. With HIV the time is critical, so call us and schedule your testing right away.