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Did you get your HIV test?
Three great reasons for a person to get an HIV test, and things to know about HIV infection:
- it’s contagious
- it’s treatable
- it’s passed on in childbirth-meaning you can give it to your unborn baby
So many people carry the HIV virus in their body and in their blood, but do not realize it. Especially in New York City, the rate of HIV infection is particularly high. The awareness of the infection and the willingness to get tested? It’s low.
Fear of HIV testing may relate to fear of discrimination in the work site, among family, even friends if the test comes back positive. Anonymous testing is available and is the way to go, I think. If you don’t want to ask your regular doctor for an HIV test, you can go get an anonymous test somewhere else. The burden of knowing what’s actually inside then stays with the individual. You will know.
Facing Fears of HIV
Fear of HIV testing is real, and it has a real basis. With the gain in knowledge about what we have in the body, comes the fear of loss. This is why I think that anonymous testing is a good idea.
In some places and at some times, discrimination against people infected with HIV virus has been real and it may still be. Working toward understanding the virus and the treatment of the infection will help with acceptance. We don’t discriminate against all infectious diseases or all disease states, but we do discriminate against some. One day, the fear of discrimination will be a relic of the past.
HIV and Job Discrimination
I will tell an odd story of my own experience in the healthcare world, some time ago as a research scientist–locations to remain unnamed. During a regular doctor visit at my work-affiliated hospital, I requested an HIV test. Did I get one there? No, I did not. Can you imagine why?
- Was it fear of knowing? No.
- Was it because I didn’t want the test? No.
- Was I afraid of discrimination if the test results were positive? No.
But the doctor, an astute and plain-speaking member of the same community I was working within, refused to give the test. She told me this: the simple fact was that at our work site, receiving an HIV positive test result would have meant the loss of my job. I’m glad she told me. Imagine. A healthcare-focused work site.
Shortly after the visit, I went for my usual donation of blood to the Red Cross. Yes, they screen everyone. So that worked out well for me, without being tied to my work site. I got to feel good about donating blood, I found out it was clean enough to donate. Working in an environment where I handled human viruses like HBV, HCV and sometimes HIV nearly every day as part of my research, this was very good news indeed. I talked to a work colleague about this, who told me he got tested every 6 months or so, anonymously, just because of the high risk.
Some say what you don’t know can’t hurt you. But what you don’t know, when it comes to HIV, can kill you. You, your loved one, your unborn child. For me, fear of knowing was balanced out with the fear of passing on the virus. What you do know, when it comes to HIV, can be treated now. This adds hope to the equation. Hope can outweigh fear. Treatment has become better and safer over the recent years, it really has.
Don’t wait for your doctor to ask you if you want an HIV test, chances are they won’t. They should, but like everyone else, they have their complexes, their fears, their embarassment about controversial topics.
Has your doctor asked you if you want an HIV screen lately? Don’t wait, ask for one somewhere.
You may also be interested in:
More about World AIDS Day: http://www.worldaidsday.org
Where to Find My Books
A few of my stories about working with HIV as a scientist are in VECTOR a MODERN LOVE STORY, and DEATH AND THE DREAM.