Safer Sex and Living With HIV/AIDS
The term HIV positive is perhaps one of the more interesting contradiction in terms. For nothing could probably be less positive for an individual than a test result considered positive for the presence of HIV. The results of such a test carry a number of consequences that require consideration. However, the first step in the process is the person deciding or being required to have a test conducted for HIV. Batchelor (1987) pointed out the mere act of deciding to get and go through testing can be nerve wracking and a difficult experience.
The first step is encouraging people to get a test for HIV. The various estimates suggest that as many as 1 /3 of persons with HIV do not know that they are infected. The reason for this lack of knowledge is the lack of testing. HIV is often asymptomatic for years, and even when opportunistic infections occur, the symptoms will be those of the infection and not necessarily related to problems in the immune system.
Encouraging persons at risk to get tested is one of the first steps in HIV education and prevention (even mandatory testing has been discussed and obviously rejected; Hein, 1991). HIV tests are usually conducted because: (a) the test is an expected or required part of some social or institutional process (military induction, marriage, prenatal test, etc. ) or (b) conducted by an individual worried or concerned about the possibility of risk (unprotected sex, intravenous needle use). Cotton-Oldenburg, Jordan, Martin, and Sadowski (1999) examined the factors that led to women in prison to undergo voluntary HIV testing. The functions of fear and past exposure were obviously related. The motivation for testing has been extensively explored (Goodwin & Berecochea, 1994).