Pre-test information and education on HIV/AIDS
Before testing, you should provide the individual about to be tested with information on HIV/AIDS, and, importantly, give them enough opportunity to ask questions. You should include the basic facts about HIV, its transmission and prevention; the importance of knowing one's own HIV status and the advantages of disclosing one's own HIV status to family members, close friends and others. Also, explain about follow-up support and the services available if the test is positive for HIV. Box 24.1 summarises the key information you should provide as part of pre-test counselling and education on HIV/AIDS.
Box 24.1 Pre-test information/education as part of PITC
HIV is a virus that destroys parts of the body's immune system. A person infected with HIV may not feel sick at first, but slowly the body's immune system is destroyed. They then become ill and are unable to fight infections. Once a person is infected with HIV, they can transmit the virus to others unless they practice preventative measures and safe sex (Study Sessions 25 and 29).
HIV can be transmitted:
- through exchange of HIV-infected body fluids such as semen, vaginal fluid or blood during unprotected sexual intercourse.
- through HIV-infected blood transfusions.
- through sharing sharp cutting or piercing instruments.
- from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy, labour and delivery, and during breastfeeding.
HIV cannot be transmitted through:
- hugging, shaking hands, eating together, sharing a latrine, or mosquito bites.
A blood test is available that enables a person's HIV status to be determined.
If the HIV test is positive, knowing this will help you to:
- protect yourself from re-infection, and your sexual partner(s) from infection.
- get early access to chronic HIV care and support, including regular follow-up and support, treatment for HIV, and cotrimoxazole prophylaxis (preventative treatment with antibiotics).
- cope better with HIV infection and be able to make future plans. For pregnant mothers or for married couples intending to have a child in the future, it gives a chance of early access to services for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV (Study Session 27).
If the HIV test is negative, knowing this will help you explore ways to remain HIV-negative.