By: Dr. Evalyn Roxas, Infectious Diseases

If you are sexually active, you should be aware of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). HIV is a viral infection that attacks the body’s immune system and is transmitted through certain body fluids. HIV destroys the body’s immune cells or T-cells that are responsible for defending the body against bacterial and viral infections.

A person with HIV, if not treated, will worsen and develop full-blown AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) and suffer seriously from infectious diseases (TB, pneumonia, etc.). This is because he or she has too few T-cells and is unable to fight off bacteria and viruses.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), by the end of 2016, an estimated 36.7 million people are living with HIV. In the Philippines, the Department of Health (DOH) reported that last 2017, there were 11,103 diagnosed with HIV. Out of this 11,103, there were 1,415 who had already developed full-blown AIDS.

HIV/AIDS has no cure but the current antiretroviral therapy, which is a combination of several drugs, is very successful in suppressing the virus and prolonging the patient’s life.

The common symptoms of HIV for both men and women are chills, fatigue, fever, genital sores, mouth sores, muscle aches, night sweats, rash, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes.

It is recommended to undergo an annual testing if you’re at higher risk infection. There are two types of HIV tests that can be done: Rapid HIV test and Standard HIV test.

RAPID TEST

Rapid tests were first developed in the early 1990s for the use of developing countries. It can be done away from specialized laboratory and can give results in 20 to 30 minutes. Rapid testing is done by taking a finger-prick blood sample or a sample of saliva. The downside of this test is that it can’t properly detect a very recent infection.

There’s a window period where the rapid test can detect the virus–and this can vary from 4-6 weeks to 3 months. The virus has to multiply and reach a certain amount in the body within that period, before the rapid test can detect it. This means recent infections, less than 4 weeks old, are less likely to test positive.

Furthermore, a positive result on a rapid test is only preliminary; confirmatory test should be done.

The advantages of this test are: it is highly specific and sensitive (>99%), easy to learn and use; the result is easy to read,  and is as non-invasive as possible.

STANDARD TESTS

Standard tests look for antibodies to HIV in the patient’s blood. A patient’s serum is placed in contact with particles of HIV. If HIV antibodies is present in the serum, they will bind to the HIV particles(or antigen) and the color of the serum will change. It is usually done in a laboratory and can take up to a week to get the results.

Get yourself tested and discuss your health options with your doctor. Early diagnosis is the key to this kind of disease. Don’t hesitate to contact your doctors. Visit ManilaMed to schedule your check-up.