HIV-Test

Could I be infec­ted with HIV?”

This ques­tion is often asked by people who come to Han­nö­ver­sche AIDS-Hilfe e.V. Rea­sons usually include risky situa­ti­ons, such as unpro­tec­ted sex, con­doms slip­ping off or other high high risk beha­vior. Howe­ver, an HIV test can pro­vide cla­rity.

If you become infec­ted,  it is recom­men­ded that you start HIV the­rapy as soon as pos­si­ble. This helps to pro­tect your immune sys­tem from wea­ke­n­ing. Howe­ver, if an infec­tion is reco­gni­zed too late, the virus may have already cau­sed serious damage to the body. This can be avoi­ded by a tes­ting regu­larly and early the­rapy!
HIV is usually detec­ta­ble if tested (using HIV lab test) six weeks after the last high risk situa­tion or after twelve weeks using the HIV rapid detec­tion test.

An HIV test can also be per­for­med anony­mously.

How is HIV trans­mit­ted?

HIV is very dif­fi­cult to be trans­mit­ted to ano­t­her body. In order to be infec­ted, a large amount of virus-con­tai­ning secre­ti­ons (blood, semen, vagi­nal secre­ti­ons, anal secre­ti­ons, mother’s milk) must enter the body through an ent­rance por­tal (open wounds or mucus) and over­come the body’s defen­ses. The­re­fore, an infec­tion will not occur if it touched intact skin.

In majo­rity of cases, HIV is trans­mit­ted through unpro­tec­ted anal or vagi­nal sex as well as the sharing need­les for drug use. On the other hand, signi­fi­cantly fewer infec­tions occur by swal­lo­wing infec­ted sperm. 

Addi­tio­nally,  HIV can­not be trans­mit­ted through kis­sing, stro­king,  or licking etc. Also, ever­y­day con­tacts, such as, hug­ging, sharing dis­hes or the toi­let do not pre­sent any infec­tion risks. Body secre­ti­ons inclu­ding sweat, saliva, urine or feces also do not con­tain suf­fi­ci­ent HIV for trans­mis­sion.

For an infec­tion to occur, the sexual part­ner must be HIV-infec­ted and unt­rea­ted. Modern HIV drugs redu­ces the amount of HIV virus in the blood, so it is unde­tec­ta­ble. This the­re­fore pre­vents the trans­mis­sion of HIV (pro­tec­tion by the­rapy). With this in mind, anal or vagi­nal sex wit­hout a con­dom with an HIV-posi­tive part­ner is pos­si­ble, and even child­ren can be born unin­fec­ted.

It is now assu­med that most HIV infec­tions are trans­mit­ted by people who them­sel­ves have been recently infec­ted with HIV and pos­si­bly do not even know anything about their infec­tion. It is the­re­fore all the more important to make a HIV test regu­larly and espe­ci­ally after a risky con­tact.

 

When does an HIV test make sense?

An HIV test makes sense in any case after a risky con­tact, for example, after unpro­tec­ted anal or vagi­nal sex, or if the con­dom broke or slip­ped off. In that case, howe­ver, you should keep calm: Even after a real risky con­tact, the pro­ba­bi­lity that an infec­tion occu­red is still signi­fi­cantly low.

The modern HIV anti­body tests can safely rule out an HIV infec­tion 6 weeks after a risk con­tact. This only app­lies to the lab tests offe­red by family doc­tors or test cen­ters. On the other hand, the HIV rapid detec­tion test still requi­res 12 weeks for accu­racy.


Rou­tine checks

People with fre­quently chan­ging sex part­ners are also recom­men­ded to test regu­larly for HIV every 6–12 mon­ths and to be vac­ci­na­ted against hepa­ti­tis A & B. This is espe­ci­ally inportant for men* who have sex with men*, as HIV and all other sexu­ally trans­mit­ted infec­tions are more com­mon in this group. The­re­fore, a regu­lar check-up on sexu­ally trans­mit­ted infec­tions is recom­men­ded for gay and bise­xual men.

Vac­ci­na­ti­ons against hepa­ti­tis A & B are paid for by the health insuran­ces in Ger­many for “per­sons with high risk sexual beha­vior”, ie people with mul­ti­ple sex part­ners. Also, the HIV test at the doc­tor is paid for by the health insurance if there was a risk con­tact or the sexual beha­vior con­tains high risk.


“Enga­ge­ment test”

If you want to have sex wit­hout a con­dom with your part­ner, it is recom­men­ded to make an HIV test 6 or 12 weeks after the last unpro­tec­ted sex. Only when both have been tested nega­tively, the con­dom can be omit­ted.
Howe­ver, it is very important to dis­cuss other unpro­tec­ted sexual con­tact with your part­ner imme­dia­tely. Con­doms should then be used until an HIV infeci­ton is ruled out.

 

How to pro­tect mys­elf against HIV?

The safer sex rules are quite simple:

  • Anal or vagi­nal sex with con­doms.
  • Avoid swal­lo­wing sperm
  • No blood, semen or vagi­nal secre­ti­ons on mucous mem­bra­nes
  • Kis­sing, cares­sing, jer­king, licking and cuddling are safe

In fact, people living with HIV, who are under medi­cal the­rapy, are not infec­tious any more, even when having unpro­tec­ted sex. (“Tre­at­ment as pre­ven­tion”)

 

Where can I get tested on HIV?

We recom­mend always making an HIV test anony­mously, in con­nec­tion with an exten­sive con­sul­ta­tion. Many AIDS help and health ser­vices offer such a ser­vice.

 


Test offers in Hannover:

Of course, you can also make an HIV test at the GP. Howe­ver, then the test and the result are part of your file, which in some cases can be a dis­ad­van­tage in the case of an exis­ting HIV infec­tion. We the­re­fore recom­mend that you make an HIV test anony­mously.

 

STI check

For men* who have sex with men*, we also recom­mend a regu­lar check on sexu­ally trans­mit­ted infec­tions.
Here are STI check-offers in Hano­ver:

What should I do if the HIV test is posi­tive?

In the labo­ra­tory test a con­fir­ma­tion test (Wes­tern blot) is always inclu­ded to con­firm the reac­tive result. When the HIV rapid detec­tion test shows a reac­tive result, the con­fir­ma­tion test is car­ried out by ano­t­her blood sam­ple taken from your vein. The result takes about 4–5 working days. Howe­ver, these results are very rarely found to be “false posi­tive”.

If the HIV anti­body test is “reac­tive” or “posi­tive”, anti­bo­dies against HIV have been found in your blood. This means that you have been infec­ted with the HIV virus.

You should keep calm in this case and get infor­med about life with HIV. The con­sul­tants of Han­nö­ver­sche AIDS-Hilfe e.V. will be plea­sed to arrange a mee­ting with you soon. You do not have to inform any­body about it at first, but speaking to a con­fi­dant might help you a lot.

In any case, an HIV-posi­tive test result does not mean that you have “AIDS”, or that you will die from it. Nowa­days, there are very good anti-HIV drugs that con­trol the viru­ses in your body very effec­tively. These medi­ci­nes are very well tole­ra­ted and gua­ran­tee a nor­mal life expec­tancy with a rela­tively high qua­lity of life and abi­lity to work. Under the­rapy you can­not infect your part­ner any­more and the wish to have child­ren is also ful­fil­l­able. Here you can find more infor­ma­tion about living with HIV.

The medi­ca­tion against HIV has to be taken reli­ably for a life­time, and the HIV infec­tion has to be moni­to­red regu­larly by a doc­tor.
In Hannover, there are very com­pe­tent HIV cen­ters, who speak Eng­lish, too:

Coun­sel­ling & appoint­ments:

Phone: +49 511 19411

Mon­day 10 a.m. – 12 a.m.
Tues­day 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Wed­nes­day 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Thus­days 12 a.m. – 4 p.m.