Yesterday we looked at how we need to establish the hard facts about HIV before making decisions or judgements about gay barebacking. Well, another hard fact about HIV is the earlier you get diagnosed HIV+ , the better your medical outcome.
So, get an HIV test early, and get tested often - that’s once a year, or after you have been put at risk (more below).
In the UK our HIV test rates are particularly poor compared to some other countries - Katherine Sladden of the National Aids Trust told Mothership Blog:
“…in Australia we know 85% to 95% of gay men have had a HIV test at some point in their lives. In the UK this is much lower, only 60% of gay men in the UK have ever had a HIV test.”
However, thanks to efforts from charities like the gay men’s health charity GMFA, there has been a considerable improvement in late diagnosis rates amongst gay men. GMFA’s Matthew Hodson told the Mothership Blog that in 2005 21% of gay men with HIV were diagnosed late, but by 2007 this figure was just 15% . Compare that to 40% of the straight population with a late diagnosis.
HIV Positive Benefits of Testing
As stated in yesterday’s post, gay guys who get diagnosed HIV+ earlier will have a near average life span  and can expect to live a normal, happy, healthy life including being able to work and have relationships like everyone else.
However, if you put off testing until the disease has taken a hold and compromised your health you are at higher risk of complications and you may not live so long .
Ultimately of course, you’ll have to test because otherwise without treatment HIV/AIDS will probably make you very sick and kill you.
HIV Negative Benefits of Testing
According to GMFA  there are considerable benefits of taking a HIV test even if you turn out to be HIV negative.
* knowing for certain that you are negative can be a relief.
* once you know you are negative you can make a special effort to keep yourself safe
* you may choose to have bareback sex safely with a trusted partner who is also negative
* you help the broader gay community in determining HIV infection rates
HIV Testing - the Bigger Picture
Sladden highlights a considerable community benefit of HIV testing too - doing your part in increasing HIV test rates in turn increases HIV detection rates, and because guys who know they are HIV are far more likely to practice safer sex this reduces overall HIV infection rates.
There are several different types of HIV tests, including tests that allow you to test at home, or without giving blood, and tests that give you the results in 30 minutes.
The HIV test that is suitable for you primarily depends upon how long ago you were put at risk, because different tests pick up different HIV indicators which take varying amounts of time to present.
Last at risk Test
3 months+ antibody test
1-3months combined antibody/p24 antigen test
3-4 weeks p24 antigen test
< 3 weeks HIV genetic material test
There is even a treatment called PEP you can take within 72 hours of putting yourself at risk which may prevent HIV infection. However this is a controversial treatment that is not 100% effective, and it is not a test in its own right.
Learn more about the different HIV tests, and PEP at the GMFA website.
Wearing a condom is the best way of preventing HIV infection if you enjoy anal sex.
Next time in this series of posts we’ll take a look at the personal decision gay guys are faced with when they decide whether or not to bareback.
By David Abrehart
(c) Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
From the Lancet:
Life expectancy HIV+ men
Age at diagnosis 20
at diagnosis cd4 count (<100 is very poorly)
<100 an extra 36years (56)
100-199 an extra 41 years (61)
200+ an extra 49 years (69)
Age at diagnosis 35
at diagnosis cd4
<100 an extra 25years (60)
100-199 an extra 30 years (65)
200+ an extra 37.3 years (72.3)
Note these figures include injecting drug users who have a lower life expectancy
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Do you take a HIV test at least once a year? Do you have good or bad experiences of testing? Anything else you’d like to say? Your comments are welcomed: