VCT (voluntary counseling and testing) is performed to find out if a person has HIV / AIDS. HIV / AIDS has become one of the major global health issues since the late 20th century until today.
Voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) is a key entry point for HIV / AIDS prevention, care, and support. VCT should be recommended and implemented on an increasing rate as they play a constructive role in addressing various problems and complications faced by the community. Majority of people living with HIV / AIDS are not aware of their HIV status.
As the name implies, the VCT procedure relies on a person’s self-awareness to check their health status.
Purposes of VCT Procedures
VCT procedures have an important role in the prevention and treatment of HIV.
In recent years, various VCT programs have been implemented in the clinical laboratory using vehicles to provide the test in various places. Counselling promotes numerous measures that can reduce the rate of HIV transmission — detecting HIV faster and reducing new infections.
VCT can also help reduce venereal disease infections and promote healthy lifestyle
Who Needs a VCT Procedure?
There are a number of reasons why the VCT program is required as a medical procedure. In general, VCT programs are used for people that are at high risk of contracting HIV. Here are some of these considerations:
- Tattooing in non-sterile environments
- Had unprotected sex with a person who has HIV.
- Syringe sharing
- Women planning pregnancy and being at risk of becoming infected with HIV.
Cost Estimation for VCT Procedure
The cost for VCT program may vary — depending on your choice of hospital or clinic that provides the procedure. Each hospital and clinic usually offers a variety of service packages based on your diagnostic needs and financial ability.
For more details regarding the cost estimation for a VCT procedure, contact Smarter Health.
In general, no special preparation is required for a VCT test procedure. However, you still need to deal with administrative arrangements.
- You need to make an appointment with your doctor to perform the VCT procedure. You need to consult with your doctor about the procedure.
- Inform your doctor about any risky sexual activities you have done in the past three months
- Fill out the informed consent form before the test
- If you have done a VCT before at a different hospital, then you need to let your doctor know about the test results and the time of the test so that your doctor diagnose your condition more accurately
The incubation period for an HIV-infected person usually develops within 2 to 3 months after being infected. If you have unprotected sex, VCT is highly advised to be done every 3 months. If you consistently practice safe sex, you may get VCT once a year.
VCT can be carried out in various places that provide HIV testing such as hospitals, health centers and clinics. The government is currently increasing CST (Care, Support and Treatment) services to facilitate the treatment.
Keep in mind that if your first test result comes back negative, it does not mean that you are free from HIV. Your body will usually develop antibodies about 3 weeks to 3 months after being exposed to the virus. Thus, it is necessary for you to carry out regular tests and examinations.
During VCT Procedure
VCT consists of three stages, namely pre-test counseling, HIV testing, and post-test counseling.
The first step of a VCT procedure is counselling. Counselling aims to prepare your mind for HIV testing and help you understand the results. The VCT’s counselling guide is a trained counsellor who will ask questions regarding the purposes of the procedure.
The counselor will explain about what HIV is, how it is transmitted, the risk of transmission, and explain about HIV testing, treatment and prevention.
However, this pre-HIV testing counseling is not a mandatory — you may not go through this step.
There are three main types of HIV antibody tests:
- ELISA test.
- Western Blot test.
- Rapid test
ELISA and Western Blot tests are nearly similar to blood tests in general. A doctor or a nurse will draw blood from your vein, usually your elbow or your arm. Then, your blood sample will be examined in a laboratory.
Meanwhile, a rapid test is done by taking a finger-prick blood sample. Then, the blood sample will be placed in a glass tube and chemicals added to it. You may be able to receive the test results within 15 minutes. If your test result comes back positive, then you may have to repeat the test to confirm the diagnosis.
Your counselor will help you understand your test results. Additionally, your counselor will also provide moral support your test comes back positive.
It is very important for you to seek immediate treatment if your test results comes back positive. Your choice of hospital or clinical laboratory may refer you a palace to get treatment.
During post-test counselling, your counsellor may advise you to start a healthy lifestyle to boost your immune system. The most important thing you should be mentally ready to hear the test results.
Understanding Your Test Results
Apart from positive and negative test results, there is another test result called reactive. A reactive test result is a possible positive result, but you will need to go back to test again to confirm this. Further blood tests will decide if you are confirmed to have HIV.
Risks of VCT Procedure
VCT is very important for people who are at risk of contracting HIV / AIDS. Appropriate treatment can be suggested immediately.
The risks that occur with the HIV test are similar to blood tests — such risks may include:
- Excessive bleeding.
- Bruising or infection at a puncture site.