While the outlook for people who have HIV – an incurable virus that attacks the immune system – is improving all the time, it is still very much prevalent in the UK, with the number of people living with the condition doubling over the last decade. Latest statistics also suggest that as many as 20,000 are living with undiagnosed HIV.
How does HIV infect people?
HIV is found in the bodily fluids of an infected person, including blood, semen and breast milk but not including sweat or urine. The most common way of contracting the virus is through anal or vaginal intercourse without a condom, accounting for over 95% of cases. Other ways of getting HIV include:
- Using a contaminated needle or syringe.
- Transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding.
- There have also been cases of HIV being spread through unprotected oral sex, but the chances of this are very small (about one in 5,000).
The only way to find out if you have HIV is to do a test. It is very important to get tested for HIV, even if you are not necessarily at risk. It is also very easy. The process involves analysing a sample of blood or saliva for signs of the infection. This can be done at your GP or at your local sexual health clinic.
Alternatively, if you are unable or unwilling to seek face-to-face treatment, at-home testing kits can provide accurate diagnoses in a matter of minutes. Ahead of world AIDS day (December 1st), bioLytical have launched the world’s fastest INSTI HIV self test that is easy, affordable and provides instant results. Speaking on the subject of self-testing, media doctor Dr Christian Jessen says:
“Compared to other DIY sexual health tests, HIV tests are the best and most reliable. You can get at home tests for other types of sexual infections but I would say they’re less reliable and I would be reluctant to encourage people to use them.”
“You need to differentiate between home sampling – where you collect blood and send it off to a lab, meaning you still have to wait a while for the results – as opposed to home testing where you get a result instantaneously. This may seem on paper to be a small difference but actually to somebody who is waiting anxiously at home it can be a big difference.”
The INSTI test can detect HIV in your system just 21 days after the virus is contracted. All other tests need 28 days to have passed.
NetDoctor tried it…
We decided to give the INSTI test a go, so that you know what to expect from a DIY kit. The instructions are clear and easy to follow, but make sure you read them through thoroughly before you begin so that you know what is happening at every stage.
- Prick your finger. This is done with a lancet, which is an instrument containing a needle used to prick your finger for blood. It works quickly and does not hurt.
- You then use a pipette to collect a few drops of blood. This is quite fiddly, so be patient and make sure you have tissues at hand.
- Once you have collected the required amount of blood, it is then transferred into Bottle 1, which contains a solution designed to dilute blood and break down blood cells. This is then poured into a small membrane unit (this is a bit like a tray) and left to be absorbed.
- It’s then time to add Bottle 2 – containing a blue solution that can detect human and HIV antibodies.
- Once that has also absorbed, Bottle 3 is added in order to remove any background blue colour.
- You can the membrane and use the key provided to work out your diagnosis.
After the process was complete, it took a matter of seconds for a result – proven to be over 99% accurate – to show. NetDoctor tested negative but, if you do test positive, here are a few things to think about…
What to do if you test positive
If you do test positive for HIV, then it’s important that you contact your doctor immediately, as the earlier the treatment process begins the better. You will have regular blood tests to monitor the progress of the infection before starting treatment, which generally commences once your CD4 cell count falls to 350 or below.
There are lots of different types of medication used to treat HIV, and you will be able to discuss options with your GP. The aim of the treatment is to reduce the level of HIV in the blood, allow the immune system to repair itself and prevent any HIV-related illnesses.
The INSTI HIV self test is now available at www.INSTI-HIVSelfTest.com and costs €29.95 (roughly £25.95). For more information on HIV, click here.