172 chapter 8: Sexual health
Knowing if you have HIV
The HIV test
When HIV enters the body, the immune system starts to make antibodies right away
to fight the virus. Within 2 to 4 weeks, an HIV test can detect these antibodies in the
blood. This is the only way to know if a person has been infected with HIV.
A positive HIV test means you are infected with the virus and your body has
made antibodies to HIV. Even if you feel completely well, you can pass the virus
A negative HIV test means 1 of 2 things:
• you are not infected with HIV, or
• you were recently infected but your body has not yet made enough antibodies to
HIV to test positive.
If you have tested negative for HIV but think you may be infected, you should
take the test again in about 6 weeks. Sometimes a positive test also needs to be
repeated. An experienced health worker can help you decide.
NOTE Testing and counseling
for HIV are usually done at the
same time and are becoming more
available. Ask a health worker where
you can be tested in your community.
In many health centers and hospitals,
rapid HIV testing is available at low
or no cost. You can usually get test
results the same day. Some testing
centers have information in Braille,
and some have sign language.
IMPORTANT You can pass HIV
to others as soon as you are infected, even though you look and feel healthy. You
cannot tell from looking at a person if he or she has HIV. The only way to know if
you are infected is to get the HIV test.
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007