We are often asked . . . “WHY KNOW? AREN’T I BETTER OFF NOT KNOWING?”
Test to know and to relieve yourself of the burden and worry of wondering if you have been infected with the HIV virus. Early detection is critical. In the event that results are positive – seeking appropriate medical treatment and counseling in the early stages of infection with HIV is the most appropriate and effective action. Extensive tests have proven that the sooner infection with the HIV Virus is determined, the more effective the treatment can be. Additionally, the variables that affect the immune system such as diet, stress and life style, can then be addressed quickly.
In a healthy adult, the average time from infection with HIV to progression to AIDS is five years. In the meantime, an HIV positive person can be symptom free and passing HIV to others by unsafe sex, blood donation if unscreened, pregnancy or needle sharing. Without testing, you may not know if you or your partner is infected until the first signs of AIDS appears.
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AT HOME HIV TEST – REASONS TO USE
- Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), the disease caused by infection with HIV, attacks the immune system. One of the primary disease fighting components of the immune system is a cell called CD4. When CD4 levels fall, the body’s ability to fight opportunistic infections such as carcinoma and pneumonia is compromised and the battle against invasion turns to a war without ammunition. The standard test for identifying the progression from HIV to full blown AIDS is defined by the level of CD4 that remains in the immune system. When CD4 levels are low, the immune system is without a defense. With early detection and monitoring of CD 4 levels, appropriate treatments can be prescribed and other variables that affect the immune system such as diet, stress and life style, can be addressed. possibly adding adding five to ten years to the life expectancy of an infected individual.
- A CD4 cell count below 35, a figure that signifies a badly damaged immune system, can be raised significantly by treatment with various drugs. But first, a determination of HIV infection must be made and proper therapy recommended. This holds true with even advanced cases where HIV has not been identified and CD4 levels are already low. Testing can dramatically increase the life expectancy of even those with late stage AIDS.
- Most HIV vaccine and AIDS treatment research has focused on discovering the makeup of HIV as it undergoes a structural transformation as it enters cells. By discovering the structure of HIV at this point, researchers are attempting to expose the inner folds of the virus’s genetic material. By pursuing the virus through intermediate stages of entering cells when it is more vulnerable to antibody attack, researchers have been able to elicit a strong antibody response to most strains of HIV. The message is clear. The earlier that the virus is detected, the more aggressive the treatment can be in building the antibody response to HIV, therefore, delaying, if not stopping the onset of AIDS.
- Most people in the United States believe that they are more likely to be shot by a stranger than to contract HIV. AIDS experts fear that the findings suggest that Americans are becoming complacent about their risk of HIV infection. On the average, at the current rate, five people in the United States become infected every hour of every day. Over 50 million are infected worldwide and the numbers are increasing. One major way to slow down the epidemic is to have the availability of HIV testing in the home or on demand. Lifestyle changes and appropriate behavior can be instituted to protect loved ones and the general populace. The message is clear. The earlier that the virus is detected, the more aggressive the treatment can be in building the antibody response to HIV, therefore, delaying, if not stopping the onset of AIDS. One major way to slow down the epidemic is to have the availability of HIV testing in the home or on demand. Lifestyle changes and appropriate behavior can be instituted to protect loved ones and the general populace.
- For many years, the face of HIV has been changing. AIDS is not a homo-sexual disease. Even in the United States, most new cases of HIV are not attributed to homosexual activity. In Africa, where HIV has the largest presence, heterosexual contact is by far the biggest mode of transmission (well over 90%). Because an individual is not homosexual does not, in any way, guarantee non-exposure to the virus. In fact, the opposite is more likely. Testing of yourself and demanding that any potential sex partners be screened will certainly slow the AIDS epidemic and lead to more educated decisions about behavior.
- A major study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that highly active antiretroviral therapy for HIV infection slows the decline of CD4 cells and progression to AIDS, extending the patients lives. The research, by Dr. Roger Detels at UCLA, followed 536 HIV positive men for up to 13 years. When patients were treated aggressively with antiretroviral therapy, the length of time for development of AIDS and survival time was dramatically increased. As more potent antiretroviral drugs and treatments are introduced, this success will increase in both survival time and precise design of an appropriate regimen for the individual patient. But participation in these developments and proven effectiveness is not possible without diagnosis for HIV.
- Age influences how soon a person gets full-blown AIDS after initial infection. It has been discovered that progression to AIDS was strongly associated with age at seroconversion without regard for sex of the patient or means of infection. And Italian study tracked nearly 1200 HIV positive patients from time of infection to time of AIDS diagnosis. More than 70% of those infected under the age of 26 were still AIDS free ten years later. But among those infected after age 34, only 40% were AIDS free a year after infection. Researchers say the reason may lie in declining function of the immune system in older bodies. This is probably due to reduced capacity to generate new CD4 cells in response to the viral killing. The study also concluded that there was no evidence that those infected by contaminated needles were stricken with AIDS any faster than those infected by sexual activity. As the individual gets older, the ability to withstand AIDS is lessened heightening the need for awareness and testing.
- United nations experts say global rates of new AIDS infections may double those of previous estimates. And they believe that the majority of those infected have no idea that they carry the virus.
“We are now realizing that rates of HIV transmission have been grossly underestimated,” said Peter Piot, executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Over 20,000 people become infected with HIV every day. Most of those infected with HIV do not know of their HIV status because there are simply no voluntary testing facilities available as well as no counseling programs. People have no acceptable way of learning if they are HIV infected. One study of 63 Kenyan women AIDS patients found that just one had previous knowledge of her HIV positive status. South Africa estimates that one in nine adults are infected with HIV and the majority of those don’t know. It is not only important for individuals to have access to HIV tests and awareness of their status, but government and organizations like UNAIDS to know for planning and funding reasons.
As the age of AIDS continues, the virus itself is becoming more aggressive than it was when the AIDS epidemic began in the 1980’s. This is bad news for researchers who have long feared that the virus could develop a way around some treatments by mutating into more resistant strains. The news comes from an Italian study that shows that those infected after 1989 had a higher probability for decline in immune system function and a faster progression to AIDS than those who had been infected during the 80’s. Levels of immune system CD4 cells declined at a much faster rate in people with more recent infections. Researchers know that HIV has a chameleon-like ability to adapt itself to individual immune systems and appears to be able to lie dormant in some people for years, especially in those infected in the 80’s versus those infected later.
Much data has been gathered to support the fact that the first 12 months after seroconversion are critically important for treatment of AIDS. There is a higher depletion of CD4 fighter cells during the first 12 months after exposure. It is critical to the patients future that the disease is identified quickly with the proper treatment prescribed especially with the advent of more drug resistant strains of HIV now mutating into the general populace.
In a healthy adult, the average time from infection with HIV to progression to AIDS is five years. In the meantime, an HIV positive person can be symptom free and passing HIV to others by unsafe sex, blood donation if unscreened, pregnancy or needle sharing. Without testing, you will not know if you or your partner is infected until the first signs of AIDS appears.