HIV Self-Test; What You Need to Know

There is no cure for HIV yet, but newer approaches to prevention and diagnosis, such as self-test, make it possible to keep the disease under control.

What you should know about HIV

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, a deadly virus that attacks the immune system. It is transmitted commonly through sex and the sharing of sharp objects. There is also transmission from mother to child, which occurs during pregnancy and breastfeeding. If not well treated, HIV can lead to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).

It has been decades since the first outbreak of HIV/AIDS. Yet, the disease remains a leading cause of sickness and death, especially in Africa, which is home to the largest population of People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in the world. One reason the burden of HIV remains high is that many high-risk individuals and those already living with the virus are not aware of their viral status — usually because they hardly or never get tested. Understandably, it is not easy to test for HIV in hospitals in this part of the world, owing to the stress and stigmatisation that comes with the process. However, the Health Fact for today is that you do not need to stress; with HIV self-testing, you can know your status within 20 minutes and in the comfort of your room!

HIV Self-Test kit

What is an HIV self-test?

HIV self test is also known as HIV rapid test. It involves testing your oral fluid (saliva) for the presence of HIV antibodies. Think of these antibodies as special soldiers that your body deploys to attempt to fight the virus when it gains entry into your body. Self-test typically provides your result in 20 minutes.

How can you get an HIV self-test kit?

The most common HIV self-test kit in Nigeria is OraQuick. It is available in many pharmacy stores. You can also order it online.

How to carry out an HIV self-test

Performing an HIV Self-test is easy and convenient.

  • Ensure to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the test kit.
  • You would need to swab your gums to take a saliva sample and then test the sample.
  • Wait for about 20 minutes to get your results.

You need to do a gum swab to take your saliva sample. Image source: Facebook

What next if you test positive?

HIV can be a challenging condition. But with early diagnosis and adequate treatment, people living with HIV can lead healthy and quality lives.

If your self-test comes out positive, you should immediately see your doctor, who would request further tests to establish your diagnosis, counsel and place you on medications to suppress the activity of the virus.

When is HIV Self-Test not reliable?

Self-testing may not be helpful when trying to know your status after a very recent exposure to the virus. This is because your body may not have developed the antibodies to the virus, which are usually detectable in self-test. In situations of recent exposure to the virus, kindly see your doctor immediately.

Learn more about the reliability of HIV rapid tests here.

A Word from Healthfacts to you

Get tested; know your HIV status today.

See you next time.

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