The winter of 2012-2013 has been one heck of a flu season. If you’ve come down with symptoms of the flu lately, and you’re also in a high-risk group for HIV infection, do yourself a favor and get tested.
Some of the earliest signs of HIV mimic symptoms of a flu, GI bug, or respiratory infection. Sore throat, fatigue, headaches, and fever frequently make an appearance any time between two weeks and three months after infection. In some cases, these symptoms may not appear—in others, they may include night sweats, chills, swollen lymph nodes, or a rash.
Are You at Risk of Getting HIV?
In the U.S., men are about four times as likely as women to contract HIV. According to the CDC, men who have sex with men comprise well over half of all new HIV cases, heterosexual men and women make up about 1 in 4, and injection drug users and other groups (like people with accidental needle sticks) make up the remainder.
Unfortunately, the number of teens and young adults getting infected is on the rise. In addition, African Americans and people living in urban areas are also at higher than average risk. No matter your age, race, or sexual orientation, if you have had unprotected sex or come into contact with someone else’s blood or body fluids (besides sweat and saliva), you may be at risk of contracting HIV or another sexually transmitted infection.
Test Yourself and Protect Yourself
If you have had unprotected sex, don’t delay—get tested. Even if you have felt fine for months, flu-like symptoms may be your heads-up to get an early test. The earlier you know your status for sure, the sooner you can begin appropriate treatment and the better your prognosis will be.
If you test negative, take that moment as a motivator for cementing your future behavior. Unless you are in a monogamous relationship with another HIV-negative (and STI-negative) individual, use protection during sexual contact every time. If you are in a committed relationship with someone who has HIV, ask a medical professional about the treatment regimen’s effectiveness and the best plan for protecting yourself. If you inject drugs, never share needles.
Don’t let excuses get in your way. Getting tested could save your life. Flu or no flu, you owe it to yourself to know your status. Make today the day you find out!