a pregnant woman and her sister hold up their hands, questioning why one was tested for HIV and the other was not

HIV Testing and Well-Woman Exams

When we found out I was positive, we had so many questions about why I was not informed sooner. By looking at my numbers, the general idea was that I had gone undiagnosed for 7 to 10 years!

According to the hospital, I was only tested at the time that I was because I was brought in incapacitated from the urgent care center. Since I could not answer their questions, they tested me.

It is scary to know that had the circumstances been slightly different, I could have possibly gone undiagnosed again.

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HIV testing at well-woman exams

While I was still in the hospital, my sister bombarded her obstetrician-gynecologist with questions at her pregnancy follow up. We learned that well-woman exams do not always include HIV testing. This was a big shock to all of us in my family. We assumed that, if you went for a well-woman exam, then you were automatically being tested for everything while you were there.

HIV testing as part of prenatal care

Now since my sister was pregnant with her second child at the time, she found out she had been tested multiple times without even knowing it. So now, we have information about people assuming they are being tested but not, as well as people being tested without knowing about it!

During the average pregnancy, the expecting mother is normally tested 2 or 3 times. This is due to the extra care that is needed for both the expecting mother and the baby if the mother is positive.

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What does a well-woman exam look like?

The general census is that HIV screening varies by age. This is much like the general age for a Pap smear being 21 years and older. Although if you are sexually active, being screened for all sexually transmitted diseases should be done, regardless of your age.

Swabs for a Pap smear & chlamydia/gonorrhea testing

When the exam is being done, one swab is used for the actual Pap Smear portion. A Pap smear checks for any abnormal changes in the cervix to screen for the possibility of cervical cancer. Another swab can be done to check for both chlamydia and gonorrhea. Apparently, a large portion of women assumes this swab can check for more or all the STDs.

Bloodwork to test for other STDs and HIV

After this, some OB-GYNs will ask if you want to have blood work done. Other OB-GYNs will just give you the orders for blood work. This is an important portion of the well-woman exam. The blood work testing for STDs checks for HIV, syphilis, herpes, and Hepatitis B and C.

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The importance of bloodwork of a well-woman exam

It is important to have the blood work portion of a well-woman exam done. It is also very important to specifically ask for HIV screening during the visit to make sure all areas are being covered. The way I see it, you are already at the doctor's office so you should have all the testing done.

Ask about HIV testing if your doctor doesn't bring it up

If the doctor does not ask you or tell you about having blood work done, take the initiative to ask them for it. Sometimes it is important for us to take charge of our own healthcare. There is absolutely nothing wrong with knowing what we need for our well being and asking the doctor for the proper care.

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