HIV testing is routine for most people, right? You go to your local clinic or doctor’s office and submit to a blood test or mouth swab
to find out if you are infected. But are you using HIV testing as a prevention method—if I’m HIV negative, then my risk behavior must be low?
Of the more than one million people estimated to be living with HIV in the United States, one in five don’t know they’re infected. The best way to fight HIV is to know your status. Getting an HIV test will provide you key health status to take care of you and your future sex partners. If you are HIV negative and you have an HIV positive partner, taking precautions is even more important. Serodiscordant couples can have happy, healthy sexual relationships with good communication and planning. Before your next HIV test, be honest with yourself about your own risk for HIV infection.
What’s Your Risk for HIV Infection?
- I have unprotected oral, anal, or vaginal sex (without a latex condom) with men, women, or both.
- I share needles with other people (e.g. tattooing, piercing, illicit drug use, insulin, etc.).
- I have penetrative sex with animal skin (not latex) condoms.
- I am in a sexually monogamous relationship but my partner has shared needles with others in the past.
- I have received the ejaculate from a partner whose HIV status was/is unknown to me.
- I engage in oral, anal, or vaginal sex but have my penetrative partner to pull out before ejaculating.
- I am sexually active (or have been) and do not know my HIV status.
If you can answer affirmative to any of these statements, consider talking to a professional about testing. Obviously some behaviors carry a higher risk of infection over others, but who wants to play the odds with an incurable infection? It’s critical to also understand that a sexually transmitted disease (e.g. syphilis, herpes, etc.) can increase risk of HIV infection. Pregnant women can pass the virus to their unborn babies as well as by breastfeeding. Testing is no substitution for any form of prevention. If you find yourself getting tested multiple times per year, talk to someone about why you are at continuous risk.
At the end of 2007, blacks accounted for almost half (46%) of people living with a diagnosis of HIV infection in the 37 states and 5 US dependent areas with long-term, confidential, name-based HIV reporting. In 2006, blacks accounted for nearly half (45%) of new infections in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Find out the facts about HIV/AIDS at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website or your local health department.