General Information

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) weakens the immune system by invading and destroying your T-cells, which your body needs to fight off disease. If enough of your T-cells are destroyed, the virus becomes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). At this point, your immune system is too weak to protect you from disease.

There is no cure for HIV but there are treatments available to help you live a longer, healthier life. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) controls the level of HIV in your body so you can live longer and reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others. Advancements in medicine and technology have come a long way for people living with HIV — if you find out your status and begin treatment early enough, you can have a near average life expectancy.

HIV can be spread through infected semen, vaginal fluid, blood, or breast milk. Anyone can get HIV, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age, race, or socio-economic status. You cannot get HIV from just being around people with the virus, or through sharing drinks, hugging, kissing, or sharing utensils with an HIV positive person.

The best way to reduce your risk of HIV infection is to limit the number of sexual partners, use barrier methods like condoms or sex dams with sex and refrain from sharing needles.  There is also a medication that you can take daily to reduce your risk of becoming infected with HIV if you are in a high-risk group (HIV-positive partner/s, high number of sex partners, in high-prevalence  area/network, sharing injection needles/equipment, history of inconsistent or no condom use, or if you are a sex worker) See PrEP section under services we provide

While anyone can be infected, gay and bisexual men, transgender women, people ages 13-24, and communities of color are more likely to become HIV positive than the general population. These communities also tend to face unfair stigma and discrimination, which only makes preventive education and procedures more inaccessible. It is especially important for people in these communities to find ways to know about safer sex and get tested regularly to ensure that they are healthy, and begin treatment as soon as possible if tested positive.

Getting tested is the only way to know your status. It’s important to get tested regularly if you’re sexually active or have other risk factors. Sometimes symptoms for HIV don’t show for a number of years, and the only way to be sure you don’t have it is to get tested.

At Equality Health Center, we offer nonjudgmental and confidential HIV testing.

What to Expect at Your Appointment

Appointments for rapid HIV testing are scheduled by phone. The appointment will take approximately 30 minutes. Included in the appointment is an opportunity to sit with a healthcare worker to discuss HIV risk and to develop a plan to reduce risk, but this is not mandatory.

The test consists of taking a swab from your mouth. This test works by detecting antibodies to HIV, which are usually detectable between 2 to 8 weeks after becoming infected with HIV. The test results are available 20 minutes from the start of the test. Test results are either “non-reactive” or “reactive”. If your results are “non-reactive” this means you are negative for the HIV virus. If your results are reactive, this means you might be infected with the HIV virus. If this happens, we will then take a blood sample and send it to a laboratory. This HIV test called an Antigen or RNA test is able to detect presence of the HIV virus itself.  This type of test can detect HIV as early as 1 to 3 weeks after HIV infection. A follow-up appointment will be scheduled in one week to review the final test results.

Additional Resources

HIV Educational Resources/Links

www.thebody.org          www.aidsinfo.org         www.projectinform.org           www.sfaf.org       

Talkline for HIV 1-800-448-0440 weekdays   12-5 est.

New Hampshire State Resources

Ryan White Care Program Federal money available through NH Division of Public Health Dept of Health & Human Services to assist with price of HIV medical services and prescriptions 1-800-852-3345 ext 4480 or 4502

NH STD/HIV/Viral Hepatitis Prevention 1-800-852-3345 ext 4502

AIDS Services Organizations:

Northwest NH HIV/HCV Resource Center www.acornvtnh.org 603-448-8887
Seacoast AIDS Response-Seacoast (ARS) www.aidsresponse.org 603-433-5377
Southwest NH AIDS Services for the Monadnock Region (ASMR) www.asmronline.org 603-357-6855
Manchester NH  Greater Manchester AIDS Project (GMAP) www.mvap.org  603-623-0710
Concord NH Merrimack Valley Assistance Project & Lakes Region AIDS Project www.mvap.org 603-226-0607