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Sep 27, 2006

HIV testing process is more than just blood test

Story PictureOn last night’s newscast we looked at how changes in technology and available resources have made testing for HIV a fast, safe and necessary process. Tonight News Five’s Kendra Griffith gets into the nitty gritty of what happens when you actually go in for that blood test.

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
When conducted at a VCT centre or free HIV testing site, the testing process is exactly that … a process. It consists of three components: pre-counselling, the test, and post counselling … all of which place a high value on privacy.

Nurse Lorna Perez, Nurse, VCT Clinic
?I want to emphasize that whatever information we share here is confidential. I need to take a name for the reasons of documentation, but once we start doing the test, we will be assigning you a number and therefore all our reports will be based on a number basis. So your name won?t be coming out in any report.?

In pre-counselling patients are asked questions to assess their risk of contracting the virus. And even though the some parts of the inquiry may be highly personal, Nurse Lorna Perez says honesty is the best policy.

Lorna Perez
?Have u ever had any contact with anybody who has been diagnosed with HIV and AIDS??

?Do you have sex with men, women, with both??

?Do you use condoms??

?Have you ever been diagnosed with any sexual transmitted infections??

?Do you have any tattoos??

?In your line of work, have you ever been exposed to anybody else?s blood??

Another section tests the knowledge of the person being tested and clears up any misconceptions about the virus.

Lorna Perez
?Do you know how to prevent contracting the virus??

?Do you know what HIV stands for??

?Do you believe that a healthy looking person could be infected with HIV??

?Do you think a person can get HIV from mosquito bites??

?How do you think people can protect themselves from contracting the virus when they are having sex??

After signing a consent form agreeing to the test, it?s time to get down to business. For most people … no matter how many times you?ve taken an HIV test, some nervousness is always there, especially if you?re afraid of needles, like I am.

After being drawn, the vial of blood is placed in a centrifuge for five to ten minutes, which separates the white blood cells from the red by spinning.

Most people think that an HIV tests looks for the virus in the body … it doesn?t.

Lorna Perez
?What we are testing for are the antibodies. Once the virus gets into your system, you body is set up in such a way that anything that is not right enters the body it has its defence mechanisms that comes alert and they attack that invading virus. So what your bodies does, it creates what we call antibodies to fight that which is invading your system. So the test itself, what it is checking for is not for the virus, but rather for the antibodies that your body is producing. That is why a test is not effective immediately after you get infected because we would not detect the antibodies, there will not be enough antibodies to be picked up by this type of test.?

Its takes three to six months for the anti-bodies to show up in your body; that timeframe is called the window period.

But back to the test …

Lorna Perez
?Okay, as you see, it?s separated, so what we use is the serum, which is the white part there. I have to open my package and it looks like this, it is a strip … all I need is one drop of serum, it goes there.?

About five minutes later the status becomes clear.

Lorna Perez
?Your result is negative because you only have one line. If we had gotten two lines, one at the patient side and one at the control side, then it would be a positive. But because we have only one line at the control side, this means that you have a negative result.?

If the results were positive, a confirmatory test would have then been performed. If both of those come out positive, the nurses can then pass on the results to the tester. But they still send a blood sample to the Central Lab, which performs the more sensitive ELISA test to further confirm that status.

After every test, each patient is given a dated letter proclaiming their status, a card with their personal identification number and the date of their next test … and of course, some last minute advice.

Lorna Perez
?Once we do two tests, between this one and the next one and the two of them are negative, then you can more or less be assured you are negative. What we want you to do is just look back at those things that you think you?re not be doing right that could expose you to contracting the virus and try and remedy those things so that next time you come you still get a negative result. A lot of people come in getting tested every three months, but the idea is not to get tested every three months, but actually that once you get a negative result, we want you to remain negative.?

And now that you know what it?s all about, it?s your turn to go out and get tested.

Kendra Griffith reporting for News Five.

Tomorrow night: A positive result is not a death sentence.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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