How do you know if you’re at risk for contracting HIV?
June 12, 2015
No matter your age, gender, sexual orientation, or race, here’s something important to know about HIV: it does not discriminate. HIV can and does affect all different types of people, so how do you know if you’re putting yourself at risk for contracting HIV? Read on to find out.
The Damien Center works hard to prevent the spread of HIV in Central Indiana by offering community health education opportunities and helping people access testing services. We’re constantly in search of “high-risk negative” individuals who would benefit most from our services. While you may know that a high-risk negative (HRN) individual is person at greater risk of testing positive for HIV, there’s more to the story. Find out below what “high-risk” really means and how HRNs can access services to reduce their risk of infection from not only HIV, but other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well.
A person’s HIV risk is determined by examining behaviors that may lead to HIV infection, which can vary. During a testing and counseling appointment at The Damien Center, our testing counselors are trained to help people understand what behaviors they have that may increase their risk of infection. Some activities that are considered high risk include (but are not necessarily limited to):
- unprotected sex,
- having sex with multiple partners,
- exchanging sex for drugs or money,
- sharing injection drug using equipment,
- or having sex with an HIV+ person.
Our counselors help clients to identify these behaviors, working together to create a plan to reduce their risk in a way that works with each client’s lifestyle.
Making safer choices
Change is never easy, and we understand that making safer choices may be tougher for some than others. In addition to providing testing and counseling services so that clients can be aware of their status and know what activities may have placed them at risk of infection, The Damien Center provides additional counseling options for people interested in exploring other ways to reduce their risk. Our risk reduction counseling provide ongoing support for people who struggle to find ways to lower their HIV risk or find it difficult to adopt safer goal behaviors they have identified in previous counseling sessions.
Men who have sex with other men, individuals involved in commercial sex work, anyone who uses injection drugs without a prescription and serodiscordant couples (in which one partner is infected with HIV and the other is not) represent common groups of people who would be most frequently defined as “high-risk negative” and could potentially benefit most from prevention services like HIV testing and counseling and CRCS. If you have questions or want more information, please do not hesitate to contact us any time to learn more about how The Damien Center may be able to help.
What should you do if you think you might be putting yourself at risk?
If any of these high-risk categories describe you or your behaviors, now is the time to visit our on-site testing center for free and confidential HIV testing. Our staff is there to walk you through the process and provide support for you, no matter the outcome. Our testing staff can also help you identify your risk factors, like those described here, and what you can do to lessen your risk, including coming back for testing at regular intervals and accessing counseling support.