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What to Expect in Pretest HIV Counseling

With no known cure currently available and a great deal of social stigmatization surrounding the issue, the HIV virus can be a frightening subject for many people, especially those who are concerned that they may have contracted the virus. Though some people may feel that pretending the virus does not exist or ignoring their personal risk factors is the most comfortable way to approach the issue, many others have found that simply by being tested for HIV, great peace of mind can be achieved. The standard HIV test has come a long way since the discovery of the virus, and today there are many options available for those interested in testing. Most doctors, clinics, and other testing venues offer counseling to supplement the test, and this counseling is typically split between two sessions, pretest and post-test counseling. Pretest HIV counseling can help to calm people being tested and inform them about the virus and what they’ll experience during the test itself.

Pretest HIV counseling is often carried out by a licensed counselor or another mental health professional, an in an environment that is entirely confidential and unbiased. While those experiencing psychological feelings of fear, guilt, or embarrassment about testing may worry about how medical professionals will view them, a strict adherence to non-judgmental care that stays within the testing room or station is a staple of quality testing operations. Pretest HIV counseling should help clients feel more relaxed and should impart a greater understanding of how the test will be performed, and what the results will mean.

During pretest HIV counseling, clients are typically asked a series of questions about themselves and their background, including their participation in any activities that may have exposed them to the HIV virus. Because HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids, such activities are typically related to substance use involving needles as well as sexual relations, issues which can feel uncomfortable for some people to relate to counselors. By supplying accurate information, however, clients can improve the overall quality of their test and help researchers better understand viral transmission. Through being open with counseling professionals, clients can also ensure that any follow-up information they receive is more helpful and personalized.

Pretest HIV counseling typically allows clients to ask any questions they may have about the virus, transmission methods, or the actual test, and discussing any concerns about the procedure is likely to lead to a less stressful experience. By participating in pretest HIV counseling and taking advantage of the confidential environment in which it is performed, those receiving tests are able to take charge of their own health and contribute to the global fight against HIV. Pretest HIV counseling in the vast majority of settings is entirely voluntary, but opting for this service means clients will walk away from their tests feeling more informed and better prepared for the results to come.

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