HIV & STI Updates
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The Center uses a 4th generation rapid HIV testing kit that can detect HIV antibodies and antigens in the sample of blood provided. Patient results are available to read by the testing counselor in 20-minutes from the point the sample is collected and is relatively painless. Similar to a finger-stick when people with diabetes check the blood-sugar, the technique we use to collect blood is quick and easy.
Most commonly used rapid HIV tests look for HIV-antibodies which are microscopic markers made when a virus is introduced into the body. The antibodies made when a person is exposed to HIV can show up in tests as early as 2-weeks from the time of exposure to as long as 6-months. Most people who develop antibodies after HIV exposure develop them within 3-months of exposure. The test kit used at The Center also looks for HIV-antigens, which are small pieces of the actual virus’ DNA. These pieces of the virus can be detected as early as 10-days from the time of exposure to 26-days. After that, those pieces are no longer visible by the test kit. These time are what are commonly known as the window period between the time of exposure to the time the virus is detectable through the used of the rapid HIV testing kits.
If a person gets tested within this period between being exposed and the time it takes to show those markers mentioned, we encourage those who got tested to re-test once the period is over. Sometimes that could mean waiting a couple months to get tested or, based on each unique exposure if the counselor suggests, getting tested monthly until that period passes. Each person will have a unique and personalized testing routine depending on what is shared during the testing process.
PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) means taking antiretroviral medicines (ART) after being potentially exposed to HIV to prevent becoming infected. PEP should be used only in emergency situations and must be started within 72 hours after a recent possible exposure to HIV. If you think you’ve recently been exposed to HIV during sex or through sharing needles and works to prepare drugs or if you’ve been sexually assaulted, talk to your health care provider or an emergency room doctor about PEP right away.
If you’re prescribed PEP after a sexual assault, you may qualify for partial or total reimbursement for medicines and clinical care costs through the Office for Victims of Crime, funded by the US Department of Justice (see the contact information for each state).
If you’re prescribed PEP for another reason and you cannot get insurance coverage (Medicaid, Medicare, private, or employer-based), your health care provider can apply for free PEP medicines through the medication assistance programs run by the manufacturers. Online applications can be faxed to the company, or some companies have special phone lines. These can be handled urgently in many cases to avoid a delay in getting medicine.
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is when people at high risk for HIV take HIV medicines daily to lower their chances of getting infected. PrEP can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout your body. It is highly effective for preventing HIV if used as prescribed, but it is much less effective when not taken consistently. Daily PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90%. Among people who inject drugs, it reduces the risk by more than 70%. Your risk of getting HIV from sex can be even lower if you combine PrEP with condoms and other prevention methods. Click here to get a CDC brochure on how to speak to your doctor about getting on PrEP.
Looking for PrEP in Long Beach? Here are some location near the Center that can help:
Long Beach Department of Health
2525 Grand Ave. Long Beach, CA 90815
The CARE Program at St. Mary’s Dignity Health
1043 Elm Ave., Long Beach, CA 90813
APLA Health Long Beach
1043 Elm Ave. Suite 302 Long Beach, CA 90813
If you have any questions or for more information about PEP or starting PrEP, please call us at the Center at: (562) 434-4455 or email: [email protected]
We offer free, LGBTQ affirming, sexual health counseling and sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing. If you have opted in to include the complete panel of STI screening, the Health Services Team will screen you for HIV along with the following:
Did you know that STIs can grow and be spread outside of the genitals? Most medical providers will only screen a urine sample for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Completely ignoring areas of your body that you use during sex. Recent data reported by the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services close to 90% of STI cases could be missed if a urine sample was the only source of screening. At The Center, you will be provided the option to self-collect samples from your throat, rectum and cervix. A urine sample is still collected for genital infections.
Not sure what to have screened? A trained and certified HIV/STI Testing Counselor will provide a walk-through of the process and help make the decision that is best of each case.
Additional Resources in the Area
STI screening services are free services intended to support LGBTQ folks who have limited safe spaces for testing and are not or are under insured. Everyone is welcomed to benefit from these services and those services are limited. If we maximize those services, we will need to postpone testing until the next testing day. When this does happen, we recommend using similar STI screening services at the agencies below:
Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services
2525 Grand Ave., Long Beach, CA
Mon- Fri: 7 am-5 pm
APLA Health Long Beach
1043 Elm Ave. Suite 302 Long Beach, CA 90813
Tue-Thu: 8:30am-10:30am and 1:00-3:30pm
Torrance Health Center
711 Del Amo Blvd. Torrance, CA 90502
(310) 354 – 2300
Wed 11:30am-1:30pm and 3:30-5:30pm
Need more than just STI screening services? Click here to search for a clinic near you that could help with more services.
We strive to be able to answer as many questions as possible and also know that there may be more questions than what’s listed below. If you have a question that falls outside of the ones listed here, please do not hesitate to email us at [email protected] or call the front desk at 562-434-4455.
How long does the rapid HIV test take?
We offer the 4th generation rapid HIV test and result will be available for the counselor to read in about 20 minutes from the time the sample is collected. On any given testing day a person can wait 20 to 45 minutes, depending on how many people are waiting and the counseling session taking place before you. It’s our job to try to make this a quick and easy experience for you and we hope you understand if you have to wait a few minutes more for your results.
Can I take the HIV test anonymously?
No. Since 2006, HIV testing became available as a confidential test only. We do not share any of your information with anyone other than the Los Angeles County Public Health Department and the information shared is to support you access medical care if needed. All information collected at The Center and stored with the health department is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 or HIPAA.
Is STI screening and treatment free of charge?
As part of our grant with the Los Angeles County Department of Health’s Division of HIV and STD Programs (DHSP) we are able to offer free services to individuals who are disproportionately impacted by HIV and STIs. The LGBTQ, uninsured and under-insured communities are a few of those groups that we have committed to support with this program. We offer multi site screening for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia as well as a blood-draw for Syphilis. The cost of testing can range between $125 to $145 per person and treatment can vary widely depending on which STI we are treating. Our program works hard to ensure that we provide free services as much as possible to as many people as possible. Many of you offer donations for using this services and we welcome and thank you for that.
Why were you not able to see me today? It’s a testing day!
STI screening is offered on Tuesday and Thursday for a limited number of clients each day. As part of a limited grant we can see anywhere between 12-20 clients a week, which means we can surpass that easily in one day. If we have reached capacity, we ask that you return on another testing day or access services at another local provider that we collaborate with. We ask that people with access to medical care through insurance or other means use those services first before coming to The Center. Most insurance plans cover the cost of STI screening 1-2 per year and treatment is low cost under most plans.
How often can I be screened for STIs at The Center?
Our program can accommodate routine screening 3 times a year or every 4-months and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends screening for STIs every 3-6 months. If you are experiencing symptoms or you have a partner with a current infection, you may be able to access the screening program sooner after speaking with the nurse. This happens on a case-by-case basis and may require an examination.
How long does it take for an STI screening?
Wait times for the free STI screening program can take anywhere between 30-90 minutes depending the how many people are in the waiting room. Once you are called, the process can be quick with the average time taking 20-30 minutes if you are waiting for your HIV test results. We encourage people to call ahead of time to ensure that we have capacity on that and to plan for the process to take about 2-hours.
How long do I have to wait for results?
Results for STI screening can be available as early as 7-days and can take as long as 2-weeks depending the lab capacity and impact that day. Results are available online via Quest Diagnostics Laboratories web portal Quest Quanum. Reactive results, or result that have infection(s) present, will be discussed over the phone with a testing counselor. Non-Reactive, or results with no infection present, can be accessed online as soon as they are released by the program nurse. To access your results online make sure you provide your email to your counselor and let them know that you would like to receive you results electronically.
Can I make an appointment to be seen for STI screening?
Unfortunately, we do not offer appointments for STI screening at The Center at this time. The only appointments that we currently offer are for people who are seeking treatment or require a follow-up consultation with the nurse. Future options for STI appointments may be available.
Do you offer treatment if I have a reactive STI result?
Yes, we offer treatment for any person who has a reactive STI result through our program. We currently only offer free treatment for Gonorrhea, Chlamydia and Syphilis. Unfortunately, we can not treat infections that have been diagnosed at other clinics or medical offices.