The Importance and Ease of HIV Testing

If you are at risk of contracting HIV, it’s essential that you get tested to ensure you don’t pass the disease to anyone else and get essential treatment as soon as possible. Fortunately, HIV testing is much easier than it was in the past, and at Southwest Care, we offer two types of free HIV tests, a rapid HIV test and a lab test. 

Southwest Care, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was founded to provide services to patients with HIV and AIDS, and we have 25 years of experience providing affordable, high-quality, compassionate, and judgment-free healthcare.

What is HIV?

The HIV virus, which is transmitted through sexual contact or injection drug use, attacks the body’s immune system. If untreated, HIV can lead to AIDS, Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. AIDS interferes with the body’s ability to fight infections and disease and can be fatal without early detection and intervention.

What are the Symptoms of HIV?

Within two to four weeks of being exposed to HIV, some people experience flu-like symptoms like muscle aches, fever, sore throat, headache, and sores in the mouth. Left untreated, HIV will usually progress to AIDS within eight to 10 years. Getting early testing and treatment are essential for better health outcomes.

What is the Difference Between a Rapid HIV Test and a Lab Test?

As the name implies, a rapid test is quick and provides results in just 20 minutes after a simple finger prick to collect a couple of drops of blood. This test checks for the antibody in your blood.

While the test is running, your medical provider will discuss risk factors and how to mitigate them. You’ll have the results, which are 99.4 percent accurate, before you leave the office. The good news is that there is less than a one percent chance of a rapid HIV test being wrong.

How soon can HIV be detected by a rapid test? The HIV rapid test can detect the antibodies in your blood as soon as a month after exposure.

A nucleic acid test (NAT), on the other hand, requires sending a blood sample to the lab to be analyzed and will take a few days for results. The NAT HIV test can usually detect the virus in blood from 10 to 33 days after exposure.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the NAT HIV test “should be considered for people who have had a recent exposure or a possible exposure with early symptoms of HIV and have tested negative with an antibody or antigen/antibody test.” Fortunately, you can get either of these free HIV tests at Southwest Care.

Other HIV Services at Southwest Care Center

Southwest Care Center also offers pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV. These medications can help prevent you from contracting HIV.

A pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, has been shown to reduce the risk of contracting HIV by sexual contact by more than 90 percent and the risk of getting HIV by using infected needles by more than 70%.

A post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, is a medication that is taken for 28 days after a possible exposure to prevent HIV. It’s important to start it within 72 hours of exposure for maximum effectiveness.

Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program

Southwest Care Center is proud to be part of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. This program covers medical care and support services for qualifying patients. In fact, more than half the people living with HIV today receive services through this program.

It can cover expenses for HIV clinic visits, diagnostic tests, HIV-related medications, and even transportation and housing. Read more to find out if you may qualify for this program.

Southwest Care is here to provide essential HIV testing and treatment, judgment-free.