HIV Services

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Everything you need to know about HIV

HIV Testing Questions

CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. People should get tested more often when they have had more than one sex partner or are having sex with someone whose sexual history they don’t know. Some sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent testing (e.g., every 3 to 6 months).

If your last HIV test result was negative, the test was more than one year ago, and you can answer yes to any of the following questions, then you should get an HIV test as soon as possible:

  • Are you a man who has had sex with another man?
  • Have you had sex—anal or vaginal—with a partner who has HIV?
  • Have you had more than one sex partner since your last HIV test?
  • Have you injected drugs and shared needles, syringes, or other injection drug equipment (for example, cookers) with others?
  • Have you exchanged sex for drugs or money?
  • Have you been diagnosed with, or treated for, another sexually transmitted infection?
  • Have you been diagnosed with or treated for hepatitis or tuberculosis (TB)?
  • Have you had sex with someone who could answer “yes” to any of the above questions or someone whose sexual history you don’t know?

If you are over 64 years of age and at risk for HIV, your health care provider may recommend HIV testing.

Are you pregnant or trying to get pregnant? As part of proactive prenatal care, all pregnant women should receive certain blood tests to detect infections and other illnesses, such as HIV, syphilis, and Hepatitis B. Talk to a health care provider about these tests.

Also, anyone who has been sexually assaulted or has had a high-risk exposure to HIV should consider taking post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and getting an HIV antigen test that can detect infection sooner than standard antibody testing. PEP may prevent HIV infection after possible exposure to HIV if it is started as soon as possible within 3 days after exposure to HIV.

Yes. HIV self-testing allows people to take an HIV test and find out their result in their own home or other private location. There are two kinds:

A Rapid Self-Test is done entirely at home or in a private location and can produce results within 20 minutes. You can buy a rapid self-test kitExit Disclaimer at a pharmacy or online. The only rapid self-test currently available in the US is an oral fluid testExit Disclaimer.

A Mail-In Self-Test includes a specimen collection kit that contains supplies to collect dried blood from a fingerstick at home. The sample is then sent to a lab for testing and the results are provided by a health care provider. Mail-in self-tests can be ordered through various online merchant sites. Your health care provider can also order a mail-in self-test for you.

Check to see if the health department or other organization near you is providing rapid self-tests for a reduced cost or for free. You can call your local health departmentExit Disclaimer or use the HIV Services Locator to find organizations that offer HIV self-test kits near you. (Contact the organization for eligibility requirements.)

Directly purchased self-tests may not be covered by private health insurance or Medicaid. Be sure to check with your insurance provider and your health care provider about whether you can be reimbursed for tests that you purchase yourself.

Note: State laws regarding self-testing vary and may limit availability. Check with your health care provider or local health department for additional testing options.

Learn more about HIV self-testing and which one might be right for you.

About 1 in 8 people in the United States who have HIV do not know they have it. The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested.

Knowing your HIV status gives you powerful information to help you take steps to keep you and your partner(s) healthy:

If you test positive, you can be connected to HIV care to start treatment with HIV medicine as soon as possible. People with HIV who take HIV medicine as prescribed can live long and healthy lives. There’s also an important prevention benefit. If you take HIV medicine as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load, you will not transmit HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex.

If you test negative, you have more prevention tools available today to prevent HIV than ever before.

If you are pregnant, you should be tested for HIV so that you can begin treatment if you’re HIV-positive. If you have HIV and take HIV medicine as prescribed throughout your pregnancy and childbirth and give HIV medicine to your baby for 4 to 6 weeks after giving birth, your risk of transmitting HIV to your baby can be less than 1%. HIV medicine will protect your own health as well.

The sooner you know your status, the better. Some people with HIV have it for years before they know it. During that time, they aren’t getting the treatment they need to protect their health and prevent transmission of HIV to their sexual or needle sharing partners. That’s why CDC encourages more frequent HIV testing for individuals who might have a risk for getting HIV.

Some people who test positive for HIV were not aware of their risk. That’s why CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care and more often if you do things that might increase your risk for getting HIV. (See above).

Even if you are in a monogamous relationship (both you and your partner are having sex only with each other), you should find out for sure whether you or your partner has HIV.

No HIV test can detect HIV immediately after exposure, including a blood test. This is because of the window period—the time between when a person gets HIV and when an HIV test can accurately detect it. The window period varies from person to person and also depends on the type of HIV test performed. Some tests can detect HIV sooner than others.

There are three types of HIV tests: nucleic acid tests (NAT), antigen/antibody tests, and antibody tests, and they all have different window periods:

  • Nucleic Acid Test (NAT) — A NAT can usually tell if you have HIV infection 10 to 33 days after exposure. It is performed by a lab on blood from your vein.
  • Antigen/Antibody Test — An antigen/antibody test performed by a laboratory on blood from your vein can usually detect HIV infection 18 to 45 days after exposure. An antigen/antibody test done with blood from a finger prick takes longer to detect HIV (18 to 90 days after an exposure).
  • Antibody Test — An antibody test can usually detect HIV infection 23 to 90 days after an exposure. Most rapid tests and self-tests are antibody tests. In general, antibody tests that use blood from a vein detect HIV sooner after infection than tests done with blood from a finger prick or with oral fluid.

Ask your health care provider or HIV testing counselor about the window period for your test and whether you will need a follow-up test to confirm the results. If you’re using a self-test, you can get that information from the materials included in the test’s package.

If you get an HIV test after a potential HIV exposure and the result is negative, get tested again after the window period. Remember, you can only be sure you are HIV-negative if:

Your most recent test is after the window period.

You haven’t had a potential HIV exposure during the window period. If you have had a new potential exposure, then you will need to be retested.

    As required by the Affordable Care Act, HIV screening is covered by health insurance without a co-pay. If you don’t have health insurance, some testing sites, health centers, or local health departments may offer free tests.

HIV Treatment Questions

HIV treatment involves taking highly effective medicines called antiretroviral therapy (ART) that work to control the virus. ART is recommended for everyone with HIV, and people with HIV should start ART as soon as possible after diagnosis, even on that same day.

People on ART take a combination of HIV medicines called an HIV treatment regimen. A person’s initial HIV treatment regimen generally includes three HIV medicines from at least two different HIV drug classes that must be taken exactly as prescribed. There are several options that have two or three different HIV medicines combined into a once-daily pill. Long-acting injections of HIV medicine, given every two months, are also available if your health care provider determines that you meet certain requirements.

If taken as prescribed, HIV medicine reduces the amount of HIV in your blood (also called your viral load) to a very low level, which keeps your immune system working and prevents illness. This is called viral suppression, defined as having less than 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood.

HIV medicine can also make your viral load so low that a standard lab test can’t detect it. This is called having an undetectable level viral load. Almost everyone who takes HIV medicine as prescribed can achieve an undetectable viral load, usually within 6 months after starting treatment. Many will bring their viral load to an undetectable level quickly, but it could take more time for a small portion of people just starting HIV medicine.

There are important health benefits to getting the viral load as low as possible. People with HIV who know their status, take HIV medicine as prescribed, and get and keep an undetectable viral load can live long and healthy lives.

There is also a major prevention benefit. People with HIV who take HIV medicine as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load will not transmit HIV to their HIV-negative partners through sex.

HIV treatment is most likely to be successful when you know what to expect and are committed to taking your medicines exactly as prescribed. Working with your health care provider to develop a treatment plan will help you learn more about HIV and manage it effectively.

If left untreated, HIV will attack your immune system and can allow different types of life-threatening infections and cancers to develop. If your immune system is not working well, you are at risk of getting an opportunistic infection. These are infections that don’t normally affect people with healthy immune systems but that can affect people who aren’t on treatment and whose immune systems are weakened by HIV. Your health care provider may prescribe medicines to prevent certain infections.

If you have HIV, it’s important to start treatment with HIV medicine as soon as possible after diagnosis, regardless of how long you’ve had the virus or how healthy you are. HIV medicine slows the progression of HIV and can keep you healthy for many years.

It is especially important for people with HIV who have early HIV infection or an AIDS-defining condition to start HIV medicines right away. (Early HIV infection is the period up to 6 months after infection with HIV.)

People with HIV who become pregnant and are not already taking HIV medicines should also start taking HIV medicines as soon as possible to protect their health and to prevent transmitting HIV to their babies.

If you have been diagnosed with HIV and are not currently taking HIV medicines, talk to a health care provider about the benefits of getting on treatment.

Like most medicines, HIV medicines can cause side effects in some people. However, not everyone experiences them. The HIV medicines used today have fewer side effects and are less severe than in the past. Side effects can differ for each type of HIV medicine and from person to person. Some side effects can occur once you start a medicine and may only last a few days or weeks. Other side effects can start later and last longer.

Side effects of HIV medicine most commonly reported include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Pain

HIV medicines also may cause different side effects in women than men.

If you experience side effects that are severe or make you want to stop taking your HIV medicine, talk to your health care provider or pharmacist before you miss any doses or stop taking the medication. Skipping doses or starting and stopping HIV medicine can lead to drug resistance, which can harm your health and limit your future treatment options. Your health care provider may prescribe medicines to reduce or eliminate side effects or may recommend changing your HIV medicines to another type that might work better for you. Learn more about possible side effects and ways to manage them.

Yes. ART is not a cure and the virus remains in your body, even when your viral load is undetectable, so you need to keep taking your HIV medicine as prescribed. If you stop taking your HIV medicine, your viral load will quickly go back up.

If you have stopped taking your HIV medicine or are having trouble taking all the doses as prescribed, talk to your health care provider as soon as possible. Your provider can help you get back on track and discuss the best strategies to prevent transmitting HIV to your sexual partners until your viral load is confirmed to be undetectable again.

When HIV isn’t fully controlled by HIV medicine, the virus makes copies of itself at a rapid rate. As HIV multiplies in the body, it sometimes mutates (changes form) and produces new forms of the virus that may not be as sensitive to a particular medicine as the original virus. This is called drug resistance.

With drug resistance, HIV medicines that previously controlled a person’s HIV are no longer effective against new, drug-resistant HIV. In other words, the HIV medicines can’t prevent the drug-resistant HIV from multiplying. Drug resistance can cause HIV treatment to fail.

A person can initially be infected with drug-resistant HIV or develop drug-resistant HIV after starting HIV medicines. Drug-resistant HIV also can spread from person to person. Drug-resistance testing identifies which, if any, HIV medicines won’t be effective against your specific strain of HIV. Drug-resistance testing results help determine which HIV medicines to include in an HIV treatment regimen.

Taking your HIV medicine as prescribed helps prevent drug resistance.

Just like with many other chronic health conditions, seeing a health care provider for the first time about HIV might make you a bit nervous. But you’re on the right path: by taking HIV medicine (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) as prescribed and staying in ongoing medical care, you can live a long, healthy life and will not transmit HIV to your sexual partners.

During your first appointment, your health care provider will talk to you about HIV and answer any questions you may have. They will help you understand how HIV works in your body, your treatment options, how to prevent passing HIV to others, and the importance of getting and keeping an undetectable viral load. They will also take a complete medical history, conduct a physical exam and mental health assessment, and run some lab tests. You and your provider will also discuss starting HIV medicine if you haven’t already.

Medical History

When taking your medical history, your health care provider may ask questions about your:

  1. HIV-related history (e.g., your approximate date of diagnosis, approximate date of HIV acquisition, etc.)
  2. Medical, surgical, and psychiatric (mental health) history
  3. Medications you take and history of any allergies to foods or medications
  4. Sexual health history, including any previous diagnosis of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  5. Substance use history
  6. Social, family, and travel history
  7. Immunization status

Your provider will also ask about any recent or new symptoms that you have been experiencing that may be related to HIV. (Read about HIV-related symptoms.)

Physical Exam

During your physical exam, your provider will check your height and weight, measure your vital signs (pulse rate, temperature, blood pressure, etc.), and examine your general body appearance.

They will also examine your skin; eyes, ears, and throat; heart and lungs; genitals/rectum; and other parts of your body.

Mental Health Assessment

Your provider will also assess your mental and emotional health. They may also assess your need for supportive services and make referrals to assist you with any mental health or substance use issues, transportation, or housing needs.

After these assessments, your provider may:

  • Give you any vaccines you may need, or prescribe medicine to prevent opportunistic infections.
  • Refer you to specialty care (e.g., gynecology, colorectal care, etc.) if you need it.

Lab Tests

Your health care provider will review results from any lab tests that have already been completed and run some new lab tests to find out what stage of HIV you are in, screen for other diseases, and assist in the selection of your HIV medicines. These lab tests include:

A CD4 cell count measures how many CD4 cells are in your blood. CD4 cells are infection-fighting cells in your immune system. HIV attacks and destroys them. If too many CD4 cells are lost, your immune system will have trouble fighting off infections which puts you at risk of getting opportunistic infections. These are infections encountered when the immune system is not working well. You want your CD4 cell count to be high.

An HIV viral load test measures the amount of HIV in your blood. When your viral load is high, you have more HIV in your body. This means your immune system is not fighting HIV very well. HIV viral load tests are used to diagnose recent HIV infection and guide your treatment choices. In follow-up visits, viral load tests will help monitor how well your treatment is working. Once you start HIV medicine, you want your viral load to decrease and stay low.

HIV resistance testing helps you and your provider better understand which HIV medications will work best for your HIV infection.

Learn about these and other lab tests that are part of HIV care and treatment.

Your lab test results, along with your medical history, physical exam, mental health assessment, and other information you provide will help you and your provider work together to manage your HIV care.

Your health care provider will repeat some of these lab tests as part of your ongoing HIV care to see how well your HIV medicine is working so that you can get the virus under control, protect your health, and prevent transmitting the virus to others.

If you started HIV treatment immediately upon your diagnosis and are now seeing your health care provider for the first time for a full assessment, talk about your experience with taking the medicine so far and any side effects you may be experiencing.

If you are not already on HIV treatment, you and your health care provider will discuss starting treatment. It is recommended that you start it as soon as you possibly can. The sooner you start to take HIV treatment, the sooner you can benefit from it. Research shows that people who start treatment earlier are less likely to get ill or to pass HIV on to other people.

While starting HIV treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis is recommended, the decision to start treatment rests with you. Before starting treatment, talk with your health care provider about how you are feeling. Discuss your readiness to start HIV treatment, the benefits of starting now, and what drug regimens are recommended for you. Also ask your provider about how to take the HIV medicine and what side effects you may experience.

HIV Follow-Up Questions

HIV treatment is a lifelong commitment to your health and well-being. People who are newly diagnosed with HIV sometimes find it overwhelming. But HIV is a manageable disease and people with HIV are living longer now compared to when HIV was first discovered.

People with HIV who take HIV medicine (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) exactly as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load can stay healthy and will not transmit HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex.

An undetectable viral load is a level of HIV in your blood so low that a standard lab test can’t detect it. Most people can get the virus under control within 6 months of starting treatment.

Part of keeping the virus in check and staying healthy is seeing your HIV health care provider regularly—usually a couple of times a year, depending on your health.

At your HIV medical care appointments, your provider will run blood tests to monitor your HIV infection and make sure your HIV medication is working properly. Your provider will also treat you for other health concerns you may have and help connect you to resources to help you with other issues that could affect your ability to stick to your HIV treatment plan.

HIV care and treatment is most successful when you actively take part. That means taking your HIV medications as prescribed, keeping your medical appointments, communicating honestly with your health care provider, and seeking more information from accurate and reliable sources. However, health care providers know that taking HIV medication as prescribed and seeing a HIV health care provider regularly can be difficult for some people. For example, some people may experience side effects from medication. Others may have trouble taking their medication on time given a busy work schedule. If you’re having trouble taking your HIV medicine and staying in medical care, talk to your provider right away. Together you can identify the reasons and make a plan to address them.

You can find the support and assistance you need. For example, you might find it useful to join a support group with other people with HIV. Or your HIV care team might be able to connect you to a peer navigator who has been down this road and can share lessons and perspectives that might be helpful. Many HIV care teams also offer case management services to help connect you to other supportive services that can help you overcome obstacles to continuing your regular HIV medical care.

Taking the steps that are necessary for you to get control over the virus will make it easier for you to put more time and energy toward the other parts of your life. Once you find a strategy that works for you, HIV can become a routine part of your life. If unexpected things happen that make it harder to manage life with HIV again, step back and think about what has changed. Don’t be too hard on yourself and give up. Get support from your health care provider, your behavioral health counselor, if you have one, and others. Think about some of the obstacles that you have already overcome and remind yourself of your strengths and abilities.

You can make HIV care work for you. Your HIV care team can help. Some of the other information on this site may be useful to you in figuring this out, especially the information about HIV treatment, mental health, substance use and other topics related to living well with HIV.

People with HIV can get and keep an undetectable viral load by taking HIV medicine (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) exactly as prescribed. Almost everyone who takes HIV medicine as prescribed can reach an undetectable viral load, usually within one to six months after starting treatment. But treatment is not a cure. HIV is still in your body when your viral load is suppressed, even when it is undetectable. If you skip doses of your HIV medicine, even now and then, your viral load will quickly go back up. If you have stopped taking your HIV medicine or are having trouble with taking your doses as prescribed, talk to your health care provider as soon as possible about strategies to get your viral load suppressed.

Get tips on taking HIV medicine as prescribed.

If the HIV medicines you are taking don’t suppress your viral load, you and your health care provider can talk about whether another combination of HIV medicines might work better for you. There are many different treatment options available.

There are important health benefits to having a suppressed or undetectable viral load. People with HIV who know their status, take HIV medicine as prescribed, and get and keep an undetectable viral load can live long and healthy lives.

There is also a major prevention benefit. People with HIV who take HIV medicine as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load will not transmit HIV to their HIV-negative partners through sex. This is sometimes called treatment as prevention or undetectable = untransmittable (U=U).

In addition to preventing sexual transmission of HIV, studies have shown that there are other prevention benefits of taking HIV medicine to get and keep an undetectable viral load:

  • It reduces the risk of HIV transmission to the child during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. If a pregnant person takes HIV medicine daily as prescribed throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery and gives HIV medicine to the baby for 2-6 weeks after delivery, the risk of HIV transmission to the baby can be 1% or less.
  • It substantially decreases the risk of transmitting HIV to your baby through breastfeeding to less than 1%. However, the risk is not zero. If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, talk to your health care provider about what infant feeding choice is right for you. See our page on Preventing Perinatal Transmission of HIV for more information.
  • It may reduce HIV transmission risk for people who inject drugs. Scientists do not have enough data to know whether having a suppressed or undetectable viral load prevents HIV transmission through sharing needles, syringes, or other injection drug equipment (for example, cookers). It very likely reduces risk, but it’s unknown by how much. Even if you are taking HIV medicine and have an undetectable viral load, use new equipment each time you inject and do not share needles and syringes with other people.

Talk with your health care provider about these benefits of HIV treatment and discuss which HIV medicine is right for you. Stay in medical care and discuss how frequently you should get your viral load tested to make sure you get and keep an undetectable viral load.

If your lab results show that the virus is detectable or if you are having trouble taking every dose of your medicine, you can still protect your HIV-negative partner by using other methods of preventing sexual transmission of HIV such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for an HIV-negative partner until your viral load is undetectable again. PrEP is medicine that people at risk for HIV take to prevent getting HIV from sex or injection drug use. Also talk to your partner about post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) if you think they may have had a possible exposure to HIV (for example, if a condom breaks during sex and you don’t have an undetectable viral load).

Also talk to your provider about ways to prevent other sexually transmitted infections (STls), such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, or syphilis. Having an undetectable viral load only prevents transmission of HIV, not other STls.

Steps to Request HIV Services

Step 1

Call us to make your appointment for your next labs, doctor’s appointment or any other service available at The McGregor Clinic, call us (239) 334-9555.

Request an HIV testing service by calling the Prevention Clinic at Carrell Road at (239) 208-8035 we accept walk-ins as well.

Step 2

Once you have an appointment settled, make sure you don’t miss it, after 3 missed appointments, you won’t be able to make an appointment, all other medical visits will have to be walk-ins and wait for availability.

At The McGregor Clinic we go above & Beyond for our clients, by scheduling appointments, we guarantee a better patient care and ensure Quality Control on every appointment scheduled. We pride ourselves for our personalized patient attention service provided to guarantee our client’s satisfaction.

Step 3

Before your visit to The McGregor Clinic, you will receive a text message to check in online, by doing so, you can save time and avoid all check in steps at the Front Desk.

Step 4

Every appointment scheduled is intended to provide our clients the best service, before scheduling a doctor’s visit, make sure your labs are done at least 2 weeks prior your medical visit.

Make sure you arrive on time to your Doctor’s Appointment, if you need to re schedule, please do it with some time before to find another availability within our services.

Step 5

After your Medical Appointment or Lab Appointment is completed, don’t forget to pass by the check out office to schedule your next appointment.