Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Window for anxiety in HIV tests

July 25, 2010, Manila Bulletin

Getting tested for HIV is not a simple manner.

If you have engaged in a risky sexual behavior one night and submit yourself to HIV testing the next day, you may receive a negative result. But hold your plans for celebration as you need to wait for 90 days before you can be sure whether the virus has gotten its hold on you or not.

The 90-day window period may cause the person anxiety but he or she needs to wait for the more accurate results that will come out after this stretch.

“During the window period, it is so scary because you cannot detect the virus but the number of virus is at its highest at this stage,” Dr. Gerard Belimac, Department of Health (DoH) program manager on sexually transmitted infections (STI) and AIDS, said in a media seminar held in Palawan last week.

“At this early stage of infection, the person has no antibody. The window period is three months so there is a false sense of security if you get tested within three months,” Belimac said.

The DoH encourages the most-at-risk populations to undergo HIV testing. People whose tests yield positive results can avail themselves of treatment services for free at social hygiene clinics nationwide.

The health department earlier listed the most-at-risk populations for HIV and AIDS: female and male sex workers and their clients, IDUs (injecting drug users), MSMs (males having sex with males), and persons whose partners have been exposed or suspect they have been exposed to HIV.

The rise of HIV/AIDS cases in the country is worrying health authorities who already have their hands full in achieving the sixth Millennium Development Goal which aims to reduce HIV/AIDS and other diseases by half by 2015.

The number of infections in the country beginning 1984 up to May 2010 is 5,124 with 700 new cases detected only this year.

In May alone, 123 cases were recorded in the HIV/AIDS registry which is an 80 percent increase in the same period last year.

Eighty-eight percent of the infections was transmitted through sexual contact particularly through Males having sex with Males (MSM). Twenty-eight cases were gathered from Injecting Drug Users (IDU).

A striking detail to this figure is that 47 percent of HIV infections were very recently infected (last five months), a survey made by the National Epidemiology Center (NEC) said.

“We need to encourage people to get HIV testing. Before, it is hard to ask people to do this because there are no Antiretroviral (ART) drugs available. But now, we have ART and they can be treated as soon as possible,” Belimac said.

“In the past, HIV is like a death sentence. But now, the person can start the treatment soon,” he added.


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