HIV is not the deadly disease it was considered to be in years past. Today people with HIV are living longer, healthier lives with the help of HIV medication and management. Here at HealthQ, we provide HIV testing as well as PrEP in Lawrence, Haverhill, and our Beverly locations. The sooner you know your status, the sooner you can start life-saving treatment, and the higher your chances of living a long, healthy life. The key is to get tested.
HIV Testing and PrEP
Test Easy, Rest Easy
What Exactly is HIV?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). HIV is spread mainly by having sex or sharing injection drug equipment, such as needles, with someone who has HIV. Only certain fluids—blood, semen (cum), pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk—from an HIV-infected person can transmit HIV.
SHOULD I GET TESTED?
Everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should get tested for HIV at least once.
If you have higher risk factors for getting HIV—men who have sex with men, people with more than one sexual partner, transgender people who have sex with men, people who have recently had an STI, and people who use injection drugs, we recommend getting retested at least once a year and maybe more.
If you have had anal or vaginal sex without a condom, shared injection drug equipment with someone who has HIV or are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, we recommend that you get retested.
Retesting is important because of the “window period” or the length of time between your exposure to HIV and when HIV would show up on a test. This can take up to 6-8 weeks. If your test result is negative, protect yourself and get retested after three months.
SAME DAY TESTING AND TEST RESULTS
At HealthQ, we offer rapid HIV testing (fingerstick, with results in minutes) which can detect HIV 6-8 weeks after unprotected sex, and lab testing which can detect HIV 2 weeks after unprotected sex (results take a week). Both tests are 99% accurate.
Once you get your test results, and if you do have HIV, there are resources and medicines to help you live a long and healthy life. We will refer you to a specialist. If you do not have HIV, you can use condoms, practice safer sex to help protect yourself, talk to your partners about their test results, never share needles, and get retested regularly. Talk to us about your risk factors, testing, and all the ways you can stay healthy no matter what your status.
There's a Once-Daily Medication that Can Help You Prevent HIV Infection
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) is when people at risk for HIV take daily medicine to lower their chances of getting HIV. PrEP can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout your body. When taken daily, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV from sex or injection drug use.
Two medications, sold under the brand names Truvada® and Descovy® are approved for daily use as PrEP to help prevent a person without HIV from getting the virus from sex or injection drug use. Studies have shown that PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV if it is used as prescribed. PrEP is much less effective when it is not taken consistently.
Studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken daily. Among people who inject drugs, PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV by at least 74% when taken daily.
At HealthQ, providing answers such as PrEP to Lawrence and the surrounding Massachusetts area is something we take pride in. We can assess your HIV status (you must be HIV-negative before and while taking PrEP) and risk factors to help you decide whether this option may be right for you.
Is PrEP Right for Me?
PrEP is for people without HIV who are at risk of getting the virus from sex or injection drug use. You may be at risk for getting HIV if you don’t always use condoms, currently have or had a sexually transmitted infection, have a sexual partner(s) who don’t know their HIV status, or use injection drugs. To learn more about whether PrEP is right for you, schedule an in-clinic or telehealth visit to talk to one of our medical providers.
CONDOM USE FOR SAFER SEX
Condoms can be safely used alone or in combination with other forms of birth control for dual protection against pregnancy, HIV, and other sexually transmitted infections. At HealthQ, we offer free condoms. Here are a few things to consider when using condoms:
- Wear the condom before you come in contact with your partner.
- Do not wear more than one condom at a time.
- Store your condoms in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight.
- Before using a condom, check the expiry date.
- Press the condom wrapper gently to ensure there is some air inside. If there is air inside, it means the packet has not been damaged.
- When opening a condom packet, squeeze the condom to one side of the packet and then open the packet. Avoid touching it with your nails or teeth as it could damage/tear the condom.
- Try adding a drop of lubricant inside the condom’s tip to reduce friction and also increase pleasure.
- Always pinch the tip of the condom to remove any remaining air before you place it on the head of your penis.
- Use a new condom every time. Do not reuse condoms.