You can be a superhero just by taking an HIV test.
Getting tested means you’re taking the first step toward keeping yourself healthy, protecting people you care about, and putting the brakes on a global epidemic.
That’s heroic stuff. It’s easy to do nothing and let somebody else worry about HIV. The Be Boss way is to grab HIV by the horns and deal with it.
When you get tested for HIV, you become part of the solution to the global HIV epidemic. That’s right: just you, changing the world for the better.
Of course, anybody can tell you to get tested. Doing it is another matter.
You have to know whether you should be tested. And it helps to know how often to get tested.
What’s more, HIV testing tends to freak people out. You might be thinking, “What if I don’t want to know my HIV status?”
That’s cool, we hear that all the time.
As we wrote last week, testing is the only way to find out for certain if you’ve been infected with HIV. An HIV infection doesn’t give you any symptoms, so you may have it now and not even know it.
Some people get what they think is a nasty case of the flu after they’re exposed to HIV — but there’s no way to know without taking the test.
Who should be getting tested for HIV?
You need to get tested for HIV if you’ve had sex, used injected drugs, or both.
If you’re sexually active
Every time you have sex, you take a chance of catching any sexually transmitted infections (STIs) your partner has — and all the STIs they’ve picked up from other sex partners.
Even if your partner isn’t living with HIV, they could have herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, or some other kind of STI.
This is why it’s the smartest idea to use a condom every time. It drastically reduces the odds of getting HIV and most STIs. But it doesn’t eliminate the odds.
Using injected drugs
HIV floats around the bloodstream. When injection-drug users poke a needle into a vein, some of their blood gets into the needle. And when somebody shares that needle, they push a little, microscopic drop of that infected blood into their veins.
That’s all the help HIV needs to infect you.
- Weightlifters can get HIV from sharing steroid-injection needles.
- People who are trans can get HIV from sharing hormone-injection needles.
If you’re going to be injecting drugs, the best advice is to always inject with a clean needle and never share yours or somebody else’s. (This is one situation where sharing is not caring.)
Here’s a great place
to find out about needle exchange programs
where you can get clean needles.
How often should you get tested?
Experts recommend getting tested every three or four months if you’re sexually active or injecting drugs.
You may be in a totally loving relationship and think your partner would never step out on you. But it can happen.
You can stay disease-free for years, but it only takes one encounter with HIV to get the disease.
What if I’m afraid of getting tested?
Guess what: you’re not the only one afraid of HIV.
Some of that’s justified. HIV can be bad news if you don’t treat it properly. There’s a lot of prejudice and stigma about living with HIV. No point sugar-coating it.
Why put up with all that?
- The sooner you know your HIV status, the sooner you can start taking anti-retroviral medications to keep HIV under control.
- When HIV’s under control, there’s almost no risk of infecting somebody else.
- When you make up your mind to fight HIV, you’re helping everybody you know who is at risk. If they’re having sex or shooting drugs, they need everybody’s help. Including yours.
The day you learn you’re living with HIV may not be a highlight of your life, but it’s a lot better than not knowing, taking the risk of infecting more people, and slowly letting the disease take a toll on your body.
The Be Boss attitude is like this: tough people make the tough choices.
Where can you get an HIV test?
Circle Health Services in Cleveland provides free HIV tests to anybody who wants one.
It’s totally confidential and your results can come back pretty quick: Sometimes as little as 20 minutes. You can drop in without making an appointment.
You’re the Boss of your body. If you have a question or concern please contact us for information about STI testing and treatment or other health services.
HIV walk-in testing hours:
Mon – Thurs 1 pm – 7 pm
HIV Services (216) 707-3448
STI walk-in medical testing:
Wed 11 am – 3:30 pm
Thurs 9 am – 11:30 am
PrEP or STI medical testing by appointment:
Circle Health Services
12201 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44106