July 29, 2013

July 29, 2013
Why Do You Need to Know Your Status

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Monday and I hope you had a beary safe and great weekend. It was another busy weekend for Dab the AIDS Bear and me.

Why do you need to know your HIV status?


Not knowing your HIV status can be very dangerous. If you test positive, knowing your status as early as possible after seroconversion has taken place puts you in the best position to preserve your health, as well as that of your partner(s), and your children, if you have or are planning to have a family.

Effective medications and good health care are enabling many thousands who are HIV-positive to live successful and fulfilling lives. Not knowing if you are HIV positive means you are not getting the health care you need to stay well. You may also be putting others in your life at risk.

If you test negative, that knowledge can be a powerful incentive to consistently follow the guidelines that will help you to remain HIV negative. It can also spare you a lot of unnecessary worrying and stress that often occurs when someone's uncertain about their status.

What's the difference between anonymous & confidential testing?

With anonymous testing, you don't have to give your name to anyone. With confidential testing, you supply your name during the testing process, but the healthcare system and government health agencies are required by law to keep your testing information confidential – they can't let it become public information.

In the United States, your medical records are confidential. They're protected by the Privacy Act, which was passed into law in 1974. Generally speaking, only your doctor or the facility where you have your test done have access to your medical records. However, laws vary from state to state with regard to their being required to report when someone tests positive. For instance, if you live in a state where reporting of communicable diseases is required, your doctor must report your positive test result – which will likely include your name – to the state and federal governments.

Anyone who is concerned about anonymity or disclosure should contact their local health department or any AIDS service organization hotline to find out what the law is in their area and where anonymous testing is available.

A home test, or going to an anonymous testing site – which are available through departments of health in all the states – are good ways of getting tested anonymously, which means that your name does not need to be used in order to have the test. You will have a conversation with a counselor, but your identity will still be protected.

Where can I get tested?

Since 2006, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended regular HIV testing for all adolescents and adults residing in the United States. In turn, HIV testing is widely available at a number of health facilities -- in private medical practices, public health clinics, hospital emergency rooms, pharmacies and mobil testing vans run by clinics and health organizations.

The CDC has instructed health care providers to test all their patients for the virus, regardless of whether or not they have reported sexual or drug-using behavior known to transmit the virus. Unfortunately, however, many health care providers still aren't following this advice, which means that many people who are unknowingly living with HIV continue to go undiagnosed.

Home HIV testing is also a possibility. U.S. residents can purchase home collection kits that involve sending a blood sample to a laboratory for analysis and results. And beginning in October 2012, U.S. residents will be able to purchase a complete do-it-yourself kit that can provide results within 20 to 40 minutes.

It's important for you to be aware that counseling is an important part of HIV testing. It may be done face-to-face with a doctor, at a testing site with a counselor, or over the phone with a counselor working for a home testing kit company. These conversations play a valuable role in informing anyone who's tested negative about maintaining their negative status and advising those who test positive about their health care.

When it comes to HIV testing, the old cliché, "knowledge is power," still holds true. Knowing your accurate HIV status, whether negative or positive, puts you in the best position to protect your health.

Every state has its own HIV Hotline where information can be obtained about where to get tested, including anonymously, in those states in which anonymous testing is available.

Some useful phone numbers:

CDC National STD and AIDS Hotlines for testing referral information:

1-800-342-2437 (English)
1-800-344-7432 (Spanish)

Hope you have a beary safe and great start to your week!

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab