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Regular and consistent HIV testing plays a huge role in your health and the health of your community. The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. The majority of new HIV infections in Texas come from folks who do not know their HIV status, so it is very important that your status and your partner’s status stay up to date.

  • What is HIV?
    HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks your body’s immune system, which is crucial to fighting off infections and diseases. When HIV is not treated, the virus makes copies of itself and attacks more immune cells. A high viral load and/or low immune cell count can lead to an AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) diagnosis. People who receive an AIDS diagnosis generally have badly damaged immune systems, which puts them at greater risk for more serious medical conditions. Today, we can treat HIV, preventing progression to AIDS.
  • How do people get HIV?
    HIV is transmitted through the following bodily fluids: blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, vaginal fluid, rectal fluid, and breast milk. Most commonly, HIV is transmitted through condomless anal or vaginal sex or through injection drug use. You cannot get HIV from kissing, hugging or other types of non-sexual physical contact.
  • Who is at risk for HIV?
    While HIV is more common in some communities than in others, anyone can acquire HIV through behaviors that are likely to transmit the virus. It’s what you do, not who you are, that increases your chances of contracting HIV.
  • How Do I Prevent HIV?
    There are several steps you can take to reduce the chances of contracting HIV, including: Use Condoms. Find the right size and choose a type of condom you like. Use Lube. Use water-based or silicone-based lubricant – particularly for anal or vaginal sex – to prevent tears in the skin and to keep condoms from breaking. Get Tested. It’s the only way to know if you or a partner has HIV. Test and Treat STIs. Having an active STI, or even a history of certain STIs, can make it easier to acquire or transmit HIV. Talk to Your Partners. Ask sexual partners about the last time they got tested for HIV and other STIs. Consider getting tested together. Date Undetectable. By consistently taking their medication, people living with HIV are able to lower the amount of HIV in their bodies to undetectable levels. While undetectable, a person living with HIV remains in good health, and it is virtually impossible for them to transmit the virus to a partner. Prevention options (e.g., condoms, PrEP) exist for those in relationships where one partner is not yet undetectable. Be mindful of drug and alcohol use. Substance use can increase your chances of acquiring HIV directly and indirectly, depending on the circumstances. Change Syringes. If you inject hormones, drugs or steroids, use a new, clean syringe and other injection equipment every time. Consider PEP. PEP is an HIV prevention strategy that can be used in emergency situations, such as condomless sex with someone whose HIV status you do not know. Consider PrEP. PrEP is an HIV prevention strategy that can be taken every day to significantly reduce the likelihood of acquiring HIV.
  • How Often Should I Get Tested?
    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of their routine health care. Some people, including gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men, and transgender women, should consider getting tested more often, at least once each year. People who are pregnant should get tested in their first trimester.
  • What Should I expect when I get tested?
    SAAF offers HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia testing and counseling. SAAF provides a safe space for testing and counseling. Our Testing and Outreach Specialists will give you clear, up to date information on how to reduce the chances of getting HIV or STIs. If you do receive a diagnosis, we will get you into treatment and care.
  • Ready To Get Tested?
    UPON ARRIVAL AT OUR OFFICE, YOU WILL BE ASKED TO FILL OUT, READ, AND SIGN A CONSENT TO TEST FORM. Your test counselor will sign this as well as the San Antonio AIDS Foundation’s HIPAA Notice of Privacy Practices (NPP). After that, we’ll ask you some personal questions that will help us get a better picture of you and your risk level. The more open and honest you are with your test counselor, the better we can guide or strengthen what you’re already doing. Not everyone that tests will receive in-depth counseling, some just need some reaffirmation and kudos. The test will place after we have conducted a risk assessment and we’ve talked about what you will try to do to reduce your risk HIV infection. We ask everyone if they are ready to receive their HIV test results. It is important that you are truly ready to receive these results whether they be HIV-positive or HIV-negative.
  • What Do The Results Mean?
    Negative: Your test is negative. This means the INSTI test did not find HIV antibodies. Because it can take up to 12 weeks to develop antibodies, we recommend you return for testing in 12 weeks if you believe you have been exposed. You and your counselor can discuss an appropriate frequency of testing based on your situation. Preliminary Positive: The test found HIV antibodies. We will then draw blood for further laboratory testing to confirm HIV infection and determine your viral load. At SAAF, our staff will link you to care as soon as possible, usually within 72 hours. This includes medical care, case management, and other support services.
  • Receiving a Diagnosis of HIV
    For some, the test is routine and calm, for others, this test has been on their mind for days, months, and sometimes years. When you get tested, you are taking charge of your health. Whether you are coming in for routine testing or a specific event that has you really worried, preparation is equally important. The more you prepare yourself with accurate information beforehand, the more you will be prepared for the possible outcome. A lot of fear about HIV-positivity stems from your perceived unknowns. 1. What does it mean to have HIV today? Did you know that people LIVE long lives with HIV? HIV is a chronic and manageable illness. You’ll have to take medicine regularly for the rest of your life and keep up with regular visits with your medical provider. 2. No insurance? No problem! Our Case Management team will help you navigate the many aspects of HIV treatment with you. There are so many programs available to help pay for doctor’s visits, labs and medicine. 3. Are you worried about relationships or sex? In addition to barrier methods and other risk-reduction strategies, there are two medical means to help prevent the transmission or acquisition of HIV: TasP (treatment as prevention- viral load suppression) and PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis). TasP has been shown to reduce the transmission of HIV to HIV-negative partners by 96% . PrEP is a medication first developed for the treatment of HIV. In 2012, it was approved for use as a once-daily pill taken by people without HIV to help prevent them from acquiring HIV. PrEP, when taken consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of HIV infection by more than 90%. The items listed above are concrete ‘knowns’ about living, learning, and loving with HIV. What is not listed though is stigma. Stigma is defined as “a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something.” HIV does not ever define someone. It is a virus, that’s it. As mentioned many times, if you have sex without a condom or inject drugs, you are at risk for HIV.
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