HIV: Why There's More To Your Status Than + Or -

Getting tested for STDs regularly is something responsible, sexually-active adults all must do. Although getting tested can be scary (especially for HIV), with advances in modern medicine, your HIV status is a little more complex than if you carry the virus (positive, or +) or if you don't (negative, or -).

Please talk to your doctor about your health. This article is not a replacement for professional medical advice.

If you have the virus, there are now options available to you. The Center for Disease Control recommends talking to your doctor about TasP (Treatment as Prevention). This refers to treatments used to keep down the viral load you're carrying within your body, through ART (anti-retroviral treatment). This means that the virus in your body is suppressed and prevented from replicating. If the virus is suppressed, and a normal blood test cannot detect the virus in your body, this means your status is considered "positive, undetectable" and you are unable to spread the virus through sex. The suppressed virus also means your immune system, which is attacked by HIV and leads to the development of AIDS, is less likely to be hijacked by the virus and you can live a longer, healthier life.

Anyone can contract HIV, but if you are HIV-, and especially if you are part of the most at-risk groups, (Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) or an Injection Drug User (IDU) are two of the most affected groups,) it is recommended you talk to your doctor about PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis.) This is a pill, currently sold under the brand name Truvada, but a generic version is on the way. Think of it as birth control, but for HIV: take a pill, at the same time every day, and your risk of contracting HIV can be reduced by up to 99%. People who consistently take PrEP also have their own status: "negative, on PrEP."

If you are negative, are not on PrEP, and find you have recently come into contact with HIV, either through unprotected sex, sharing needles, or other methods of possibly contracting the virus, you have a 72-hour window to go to an emergency room and get PeP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis.) If PrEP is birth control for HIV, PeP is the morning after pill. PeP is a series of medicines designed to prevent the virus from replicating in your body. You will be taking the anti-HIV medication for 28 days. PeP is intended for use only in emergency situations and is not a replacement for other measures to prevent contraction of the virus, such as condoms and PrEP.

If you do not have insurance, or if you have private insurance but would rather not have an STD test show up on a parent's bill, the Calloway County Health Department is a Title X clinic that offers STD testing (among other services) for little-to-no cost.

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