HIV and the Church

June 27 th was National HIV Testing Day, an annual event meant to encourage greater dialogue and action around discovering your HIV status. Answering the question of your HIV status can be a potentially anxiety-filled process, yet is an important step in ensuring your future well being and peace of mind. Our HIV&AIDS Initiative intern Eliana took the opportunity of National Testing Day to get tested, and she documented her experience to take the mystery out of HIV testing:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines recommend that all people age 13-64 get tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime as part of a routine health exam, and that those with greater risk factors be tested more frequently. The CDC estimates that as many as 1 in 8 people living with HIV in the United States are unaware of their positive infection status, perhaps because they have never been tested or have been infected in the time since their last test. Being unaware of your HIV status inhibits the ability to seek treatment and can perpetuate HIV transmission to others. However, knowing your HIV status enables you to remain healthy and protected if you test negative or to begin treatment and halt transmission to others if you test positive.

In the 35 years since HIV was first reported in the United States, amazing strides have been made in our understanding of the virus, prevention methods, and treatment options, ensuring that a positive HIV test result can be the first step towards care.

Buying the Test

In the spirit of following the CDC’s HIV testing recommendations, as well as seeking to understand the emotions triggered through the process, I decided to embark on my own HIV testing journey leading into National HIV Testing Day. 

The first step in my testing experience was the physical act of going out to purchase the test kit. As I walked into the pharmacy section of Wal-Mart, I silently prayed that I wouldn’t have to ask a pharmacist to grab me a test, nor need them to point out the tests on the floor. To my delight, the tests were readily accessible, next to other preventive test devices and sundry medications. I just wanted to buy my test and get out, which I accomplished easily enough.

At the check out, the cashier was prompted to ask me my age, as the test required that the purchaser be age 17 years or older. This seemingly arbitrary age of 17 years is because the clinical trials for the test did not include enough people under 17 to allow researchers to confidently determine that those younger than 17 years could receive accurate results from this particular brand.

Taking the Test

 Once I finally had my test kit in hand, I was ready to find a comfortable, private place and take the test. I had a friend with me to help guide me through the process and to be a sounding board as I verbalized my various thoughts and emotions in the process. The actual testing procedure was surprisingly simple, and clearly laid out in the instructions accompanying the test kit. I swabbed my gums, placed the sample in the testing fluid, and then just had to wait. During the twenty minutes required to receive an accurate result on the oral test my friend kept me distracted and talking, and the next thing we knew, it was time to read my results.

Learning the Results

Again, the test kit spells out the process exceedingly well, so there was no mistaking the meaning of my test results. Literature included in the kit offers next steps to take, whether your test comes back positive or negative. For me, the one test was sufficient as my results came back negative, and I’m not engaged in activities that heighten my risk of infection.

For others, next steps may include seeing their physician to confirm their diagnosis and start treatment, or simply waiting several months and re-testing. The at-home oral HIV test I used detects HIV antibodies, not the virus itself, so if testing was administered too close to possible infection, the body may not have produced antibodies yet, and would thus show as a negative result. For this reason, it is recommended that those engaged in high-risk behaviors be tested more frequently so as not to miss the potential presence of HIV antibodies in their systems. 

Overall, the process of taking an at-home HIV test was surprisingly simple and quick. It doesn’t take any special skills to go buy the kit, gather a trusted friend to see you through the process, and follow the easy to understand instructions and follow-up in the test kit – and you can know your status in 20 minutes! Answering the question of your HIV status is the first step in granting you peace of mind and equipping you to take action to promote your health.


In home HIV tests are available at your local drugstore. If you would like additional support in getting tested, you can contact your healthcare provider or locate a testing site at Saddleback Church also offers free HIV testing by appointment – for more information call 949-609-8555 or email

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