You can’t see HIV and you’ll only know if you have the virus if you get tested at a clinic. No one can force you to take an HIV test. It is voluntary (something you do because you want to).
VCT stands for Voluntary Testing and Counselling for HIV. This service is available at all the health posts and hospitals countrywide.
Your test results are private and confidential. The doctor or nurse will not tell anyone your results except you. If your test is positive, this means that you have the virus. If your test is negative and you haven’t had unprotected sex at any time in the three months before you took the test, you don’t have the virus. If you did have unprotected sex during the three months before getting tested, you need to get tested again three months later to know your status.
Why? Because in the early stages of HIV, your test will show up negative. It takes up to three months for the anti-bodies to HIV to show up in your blood.
Getting tested can be a scary, life-changing decision. But it’s better to know your status so you don’t harm others and can look after yourself. HIV can be treated with medicines called antiretrovirals (ARVs) to help you live a normal and healthy life. They prevent the virus from multiplying in your body and destroying your immunity! Do not give the virus this chance. Take your medications every day at the same time and continue to get regular check ups.
If you test HIV-positive, you might feel angry, sad, shocked and upset. The nurses and doctors are there to guide and help you with counselling. They will be able to answer any questions you may have. You could also join a support group.
There are also other tests you should take, like those for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), as they should be treated too. Girls with HIV should get tested for human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer.
The most common form of ARVs in Malawi is a tablet that you take once a day. It is called Atripla or 5A.
HIV is not a death sentence! If you are HIV-positive, you can live a long and healthy life with the help of ARV medicines, a healthy lifestyle and a good attitude. Protecting others means using a condom correctly each time you have sex. Tell yourself that “HIV will end with me” and don’t pass it to your partner or babies and make it happen.