Don’t know your status? Well, if it turns out that you are HIV positive, you can only start treatment and protect yourself and your partners by taking that first important and simple step; getting tested.
Here are ten common sense reasons why you should get tested right now – and at least every six months thereafter.
1. Knowing your status gives you power. Why keep your head in the sand? Knowledge empowers you to make the best decisions for your life. You have the choice to allow HIV to dominate you or for you to take charge of it.
2. The sooner you start treatment the better. If you know your status you can start treatment at the best time to keep the virus under control. It could help your immune system to recover faster and more effectively and earlier treatment may improve your response to ARVs (HIV medicine).
3. You could add years to your life. HIV could be playing havoc with your health right now and you might not even know it. Treatment at the right time will keep you healthier and could mean fewer complications and ultimately a longer and better life.
4. You could avoid getting dangerous illnesses. The effects of being HIV positive can take years to show and some people only find out when they start feeling terrible. You could get really sick with various illnesses before treatment finally starts making you feel better.
5. Your HIV-related illnesses could delay your HIV treatment. Some people only discover they are HIV positive when they get an opportunistic infection such as TB. In some cases the TB must be treated before tackling the HIV, risking your health further.
6. You can start living better. A healthy lifestyle, including exercise and a good diet, helps your body fight against HIV. If you know your HIV status, you can start making lifestyle changes that will keep you feeling on top of the world.
7. You'll be protecting your partners. Knowing your status helps you be a better and more responsible lover. ARV treatment reduces the amount of HIV in your body and semen which means that it also reduces the possibility of you passing it on to other people, especially those you care about.
8. You can play a part in beating HIV. Because you’re far less likely to pass on HIV if you’re being treated, anyone on ARVs instantly becomes a soldier in the global war against the spread of HIV.
9. Treatment is free and increasingly simple. Even if you can't afford to get treatment, there are options to get HIV medicine for free. It’s also becoming easier to manage; in many cases you may just need to take one pill a day.
10. Testing is easy, free and confidential. A lot of clinics offer free testing; it will only take a few minutes and someone will give you support and advice if you are positive. The results are completely confidential and it’s your choice if and when you want to tell anyone else. At a clinic like OUT, gay people and men who have sex with men will be treated warmly and without judgement.
For free and gay-friendly regular HIV screenings, contact the OUT clinic in Pretoria. They provide non-judgemental advice, counselling, testing and other health services to men who have sex with men. If you’re not in Pretoria or Gauteng, OUT will suggest a friendly clinic or service near you to get tested. Call OUT on 012 430 3272.