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A Doctor Tells You Why It Is Important To Take A HIV test, Even If You Think You Are Not At ‘High-Risk’

General practitioner, Dr Jonathan Ti, revealed that a late HIV diagnosis is a huge determinant in HIV-related deaths. In his many years of treating HIV, many people have admitted that they didn't take the test sooner because of the public stigma.

This stigmatisation can be detrimental to the patient's health. Most of the times, early detection will lead to early treatment and thus, better outcomes.

Dr Jonathan Ti recently posted a complete guide to getting an HIV test done in Singapore on DxD. Here are some of the key points from his super comprehensive guide.

HIV is a major global public health issue

HIV major global public health issue

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It's a viral infection that can be transmitted through bodily fluids; most commonly through sexual exposures but also through contaminated needles and blood transfusions.

Some quick stats: 

  • It has claimed more than 35 million lives so far.
  • In 2017, 940 000 people died from HIV-related causes globally.
  • There were approximately 36.9 million people living with HIV at the end of 2017 with 1.8 million people becoming newly infected in 2017 globally. [1]

The HIV virus attacks your body's immune cells

HIV virus singapore

If the HIV virus is left undiagnosed and untreated, it will attack your body’s immune cells. These cells are the 'soldiers' that usually defend our body from infections. [2]

Without a healthy immune system, even minor infections can become severe and life-threatening.

There's a difference between HIV and AIDS

There's a critical difference between an HIV infection and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Simply put, people who are infected with HIV and aren't treated allow the virus to replicate and attack the body's immune cells.

Eventually, the count of immune cells will drop, which leads to other infections caused by bacteria or viruses that invade the body. Only when this occurs, then we say someone has AIDS.

HIV infections can stay invisible for years

This is easily one of the scariest and most complicated aspects of HIV: Someone with an HIV infection may not have any obvious symptoms or signs for many years. [4]

Early infection may cause non-specific symptoms such as fever, swollen glands, fatigue, and body rashes, but they are often dismissed as bad flu.

During this period, people can unwittingly spread the infection to unsuspecting partners.

Early detection and treatment can greatly increase normal life expectancy

Early detection HIV treatment singapore

When HIV is diagnosed early, medications that could suppress the virus can be prescribed and this, in turn, could allow for near normal life expectancy. [3]

Dr Jonathan describes patients who were diagnosed and treated early, as being some of the healthiest, fittest and happiest people he knows.

In Singapore, there are many different types of HIV tests

HIV testing singapore

HIV test refers to any form of testing for an HIV infection. There are many types of HIV tests available in Singapore. Hence, it can get a little confusing sometimes.

Dr Jonathan usually considers the number of days since his patient's last potential exposure before recommending which test should be taken. 

Most healthcare providers offer HIV testing

HIV testing can be done in almost every clinic, hospital or with other healthcare providers in Singapore.

However, only certain clinics offer rapid testing and even fewer are able to offer tests anonymously.

HIV testing in Singapore ranges from $10 to about $150

HIV test cost singapore

Depending on where it's performed and what kind of testing is required, HIV tests range in their costing.

Rapid testing at a private clinic could cost between $50-  $150 if performed at Anonymous HIV Testing centres, of which there are only 10 such clinics in the country.

Charity organisations like Action For Aids, also offer rapid anonymous HIV testing. Their tests cost around $10 - $20.

Medisave claims are not available specifically for HIV tests

As of now, subsidies specifically for HIV testing in Singapore aren't available. However, Medisave claims may be available for general health screening packages (which could include HIV tests).

There are different window periods for different types of testing to produce results

HIV window periods

Window periods refer to a period of time where it may be possible to detect the virus, but negative results may not yet be fully conclusive.

The 4th generation HIV Combo test has an accepted window period of 28 days, which means that after 28 days, it will conclusively detect the virus if there is a true infection.

This is why Dr Jonathan usually tests his patients at 14 days post-exposure, and again after 28 days to be fully certain.

HIV doesn't just affect "gay men" or "guys who sleep with prostitutes"

HIV AIDS Singapore

HIV infections do not discriminate. While these groups are at a higher risk of being infected, Dr Jonathan seen ‘regular’ men and women who were presumably in low-risk situations contract HIV. 

There's always a risk of a chain of infection. Sexually active partners will always have the potential of exposing you to infection, especially if their past partners weren't tested themselves.

Exposure to HIV virus doesn't necessarily mean you're infected

Finally, some good news, being exposed to an HIV-positive person doesn't automatically mean you're infected. There are several factors that need to be considered first, these include;

  •    Type of exposure
  •    Viral load
  •    Stage of infection
  •    Other concurrent STD (e.g. herpes or chlamydia, etc.)

However, it's better to be safe than sorry and get tested if you encounter any kind of potential exposure.

Early detection saves lives

You should definitely act quickly once you suspect that you might be suffering from an HIV infection.

The faster you take protective measures and seek treatment, the better your chances are of leading a normal life. Stay safe.


Ever wanted to ask a health question to a specific renowned specialist in Singapore? DxD Sessions are when these expert doctors answer all your questions, for free!
 
You can Ask A Doctor right away, or view the complete list of DxD Sessions here
 

References: 

 1. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hiv-aids

 2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2903738/

 3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2915483/

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2760925/

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