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Routine HIV testing recommended for women
  April 4, 9:38 AM
Human immunodeficiency virus
Over 1 million people in the United States are living with the HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and more than 25% of those infected have no idea they carry the virus. When a person don?t know they are infected they are putting their own life at risk, because they are not getting important medications that will help them live longer. They are also jeopardizing the lives of every one of their sexual partners.
In 1985 only 8% of new HIV cases were found in women, but by 2005 that number had ballooned to 27%. Why the increase among women? Many women don?t ask the tough questions about their partner?s sexual history. Condom use is also low; about 45% of teenage women use condoms and it declines from there. Why the complacency?
- A lot of young women don't think about HIV. They worry about herpes and the genital wart virus, but not HIV. People in their teens and 20?s don?t have the cultural memory of the 80?s when all we thought about was HIV. It was in the news every day and we all knew someone who was dying.
- Use of alcohol or other recreational drugs clouds judgment. Big time.
- Women not at risk for pregnancy (using another contraceptive, like the pill, or post-menopausal) think condoms are unnecessary.. This may help to explain why HIV is on the rise for women in their 50?s and 60?s.
- Domestic violence - many women are afraid to bring up condoms, even when they suspect their partner is unfaithful. They fear recriminations even for asking.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology is now recommending routine HIV testing for women ages 19 to 64. If you test positive, a confirmatory test is needed to make sure the result is accurate. If you test negative your doctor should review your risk for HIV every year and if you have had a sexually transmitted disease or more than one sex partner since your last test, you should be tested again.
If you don't have health insurance or prefer not to go to your own doctor there are many places in the Bay Area for confidential testing.
Besides getting tested what else can a woman do? Use a condom every single time and insist your partner be tested for HIV before starting a new sexual relationship. Ask to see the results, because there are too many stories of women (and men) being told half-truths. If your partner isn't interested in stepping up to the plate, move on. It's just not worth the risk. Maybe it's not so sexy to insist on testing, but you know what, getting HIV isn't sexy,
Remember, if you have ever had sex you are at risk for HIV. Protect yourself and those you love. Get tested.
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