HIV/AIDS rapid test with blood drop
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VCT and HIV testing: top five facts

Getting tested for HIV is a scary experience. Even if you are certain not to be infected, the 15-minute wait for the result can be excruciating.

​Also, there are also other worries: Are the tests reliable? What about your privacy? What happens if you are positive? Read all about it…

VCT. How does it work?

Voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) is one of the most popular ways of getting tested for HIV. It’s fast: results are usually available within 15 minutes. The counselling occurs over two sessions, one before the results and a quick one after. You will discuss how one gets HIV/AIDS, how the test works, and what to do once you know your status. If you are negative, the focus will be on avoiding the disease in the future. If you are positive, the discussion will centre on avoiding infecting others, treatment possibilities and taking care of yourself. Together, the sessions shouldn't take more than 30 minutes and are usually free of charge.

What are your rights?

You have the right to know your status and going to a VCT centre is an easy way to exercise this right. Still, many people worry about whether other people will learn of their status. But no: just like a doctor, a VCT counsellor is obliged to protect your privacy. Even the government won't find out about your status. VCT centres don’t pass any names to the Ministry of Health, only the total number of HIV-positive test results. The fact that you are not given your results in writing is another way VRT centres make sure that your results stay private. The counsellor might pass on your name to the HIV clinic they refer you to – but these clinics are also obliged to protect your privacy.

The test

The test involves pricking your finger for a drop of blood. Or alternatively, your mouth’s insides are gently scraped with a cotton swab to get cells. These samples are then put on the test stick. Meanwhile, the counsellor will explain how to interpret your results. These rapid tests are very accurate, but very occasionally they show so-called false-positive or discrepant results. That’s why every person who tests positive has to have additional blood taken for more rigorous testing that takes an additional two weeks.

The test result doesn't change if you have taken ARVs, PEP or any other medication, since the test doesn’t test the presence of the virus itself, but rather the HIV-antibodies produced by your immune system.

I'm positive. Now what?

Getting a positive test result is a shock. You will feel angry, scared, worried, terrified or numb. But it's important to talk and listen to the counsellor. They provide important information on your next steps. They will also refer you to an HIV clinic. You should definitely go there since healthcare providers can make sure that you live positively for a long time. You will also need to tell your partner and other relevant people about your status. This is called 'disclosure'. It's important to remember that the diagnosis says nothing about you as a person. You aren't a bad person just because you caught a disease.

I may have been infected. What do I do?

If you think you may have been infected, you should immediately see a doctor to get PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis), a drug regime that can protect you from infection. Then, unfortunately, you have to wait. It takes about 6 to 12 weeks for your body to react to the virus in the body. Only then, will your immune system have produced enough antibodies to show up on a test. This is called the ‘window period’. If you get tested before that, the test might be negative even if you are infected. So you need to wait three months before you get tested. If that test is negative, you still need to get another test three months later. Only if both tests are negative, can you be sure that you are not infected.

More tips for testing:

  • Your VCT counsellor can also give you advice on family planning and general STD prevention. Don't hesitate to ask any questions.
  • If you are pregnant, you should always get tested for HIV. In case you are HIV-positive, it's best to know as early as possible so steps can be taken to protect the baby.
  • Liverpool VCT in Nairobi offers testing for people with special needs, such as PWDs. To visit their center, find directions here
  • If you don't know where to find a VCT centre, use our 'Find a Clinic' section.
  • Everybody is scared to get tested. That's normal. Just tell yourself that not knowing your status is much scarier than knowing it.
  • You can get tested together with your partner in special couple's sessions. It might be less scary that way and you can learn together how you can avoid getting infected.

 

Share your experiences of getting tested. Leave a comment below or join the discussion on Facebook.

Comments

HI! is it possible for a hiv positive girl 2 have a baby with a negative guy? and how can one know the status of a partner who is on arvs becoz i heard that they test negative

Hi John, the result of the test is not changed by the ARVs. The test looks for antibodies to the HI-virus, and they will be present regardless of ARVs, as your immune system starts producing them when you are first infected. As for getting pregnant, check out what our sex-expert Valentine has to say about this here: http://lovematters.co.ke/news/making-baby-when-hiv-positive Let us know if you have any more questions!

Thanks for the information. what if you are infected u get opportunistic infection like cronic fungal & u have all signs of aids. Is there a probability of recovering after taking arvs & which can be the estimated time for this.

Hi John, you will never fully recover from HIV/AIDS, even on ARVs. If you get opportunistic infections, that means that the virus has already progressed to AIDS, as you said. Ideally, a patient should start ARVs before he or she gets AIDS. And the ARVs won't treat the opportunistic infections (OIs), they should be treated on their own. Taking ARVs should prevent you from getting OIs for a while, as they keep your immune system functioning. Getting OIs shows that the immune system can no longer do its job properly. Once a patient is on ARVs and on medication for the OIs, he or she should feel better, but it all depends on which OI and how far the immune system is able to recover, so a prediction is really difficult, also regarding time. Sorry we can't give you a straight answer, but the recovery from the OI and the time needed depends on too many different factors and will differ from patient to patient. Does this help?

i befriended a girl five years ago.after a year she discovered she is positive wen i got her pregnant,we lived on and heard unprotected sex for almost 3 yrs,almost on daily basis nowing our life has come to an end.after giving birth to a boy(+ as well) we were tested and i was -ve.i lost her a year after,but i av moved on with my son upto now 5yrs and on arvs.av regularly tested myself (last was 2months ago)bt am still -ve.does it mean am safe coz it has really affected my sex life in fear of passing it on.advice plse

I am so sorry to hear that, Solo. If all the tests so far have been negative, then you are indeed negative. You have been quite lucky. Please use condoms or get tested with your new partners from now on, to avoid getting infected after all. Good luck!

Hi Stano, HIV infection comes in three stages. The first phase last about 2 to 4 weeks right after infection. Some people develop flu-like symptoms: fever, joint pain, fatigue, headaches, sore throat and/or rashes. Those are the first symptoms, and some people don't even feel them. Then, there won't be any symptoms for an average of 8 years. That's the second stage, the latency stage. The last stage is AIDS. That means that your body's immune system is so damaged that it can't fight off infections anymore. That's when you get so-called opportunistic infections. Those are illnesses that normally would be fended off by your immune system, but because that's not working properly, it can't. Unless someone is on medication, the last stage will last about two years. If antiretroviraldrugs are taken, your immune system will be supported, and the life expectancy is then much longer. Does this answer your question?
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