Introduction

Testing is an important tool in the nation's efforts to curtail the spread of HIV. Testing allows researchers to track the course of the epidemic, and provides information to help in developing prevention strategies and allocating resources for HIV-related services. The counseling which should be provided before and after testing, provides a unique opportunity to educate individuals about HIV, including a discussion of their risks, how to avoid infection, and if they are positive, how to protect others and get treatment and follow-up.

In addition to its value as a prevention tool, testing is the first step in helping people who are infected receive appropriate treatment. With the advent of new drugs to treat HIV and AIDS, testing is more important than ever. Early detection of HIV, followed by certain drug combinations, can greatly improve both the quality and quantity of life. Another way in which testing is vital is its role in reducing the transmission of HIV from mother to infant. Pregnant women who are tested and find out they are infected have the opportunity to take drugs which may prevent the infant from also becoming infected.

This resource guide has been developed to assist individuals looking for information regarding various aspects of HIV testing. Changing technologies, medical terminology, as well as complicated scientific protocols, may make certain aspects of HIV testing difficult to understand. The varying state and federal regulations and laws can also contribute to the confusion.

Because testing is so important, it is imperative that the confusion that sometimes surrounds it be eliminated as much as possible. This document is a tool which can be used to clarify the many issues of testing. The information is presented in a question and answer format supported by numerous references, a glossary of terms, and other resources. Many of these documents can be obtained from the CDC National AIDS Clearinghouse by calling 1-800-458-5231, or by visiting the Clearinghouse Web site at www.cdcnac.org.

The resources listed in this document, while abundant, are not comprehensive. Individuals doing in-depth research on HIV testing are encouraged to visit their local medical and/or university libraries to research the topic further. The information in this document should in no way be considered a substitute for comprehensive pre- and post-test counseling for individuals seeking an HIV test.

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