What is an ICTC (Jyothis)?
Jyothis or Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres (ICTC) Centres provide HIV counseling and testing and treatment referrals free of cost. There are 163 centres across the state located at all Medical Colleges, District Hospitals, General Hospitals, Taluk Hospitals as well as at some ESI hospitals and Private hospitals. In addition, there are centres in some railway stations and major prisons. To find a centre near you.
Counselling and HIV testing is provided to anyone who walks in at the centres in addition to individuals who are referred by doctors on the basis of their symptoms. A major role of Jyothis is to provide general counselling for those in need. In addition they also serve those with STDs and TB who are generally referred to an ICTC for HIV testing.
Experienced counsellors at the centres through confidential and supportive discussions with clients, offer accurate information and advice. People who are tested HIV-negative are offered information and counselling to reduce risks and remain HIV-negative. People who are found to be HIV-positive (i.e. who have HIV infection) are provided psychosocial support and are referred and linked to prevention, care and treatment services.
Why the Service is provided?
When you hear someone is "HIV infected", "has HIV infection", that means the person has HIV in his or her body and can pass the virus to other people. People infected with HIV may have no symptoms for 5 - 7 or more years. They may not know they are infected. If you have engaged in risky sexual behaviours (click here to take a quiz to find if you need to get tested) a simple blood test (click here for a description of tests done at ICTC) is the only way to find out if you have HIV. It is important that someone who is infected knows his/her HIV status so that he/she would not unknowingly pass the virus to others.
For those who turn out to be HIV positive, it is not the life’s end as it used to be in the recent past. Effective treatment now exists, though it does not cure one of HIV. These medications (antiretroviral drugs) have helped people having HIV or AIDS live longer, healthier lives. Currently those who have major symptoms suggestive of AIDS or whose immunity is depressed as shown by a CD4 count less than 200 per c.mm are given CD4 testing and antiretroviral treatment are provided free of cost at one of the antiretroviral therapy centres (ART centres- Ushus centres). The treatment is provided by the government but has to be taken lifelong.
In India, two of every five persons - more than 400 million - have latent tuberculosis, (Latent tuberculosis is where a patient is infected with the TB bacteria but does not have active tuberculosis disease and is not infectious). Patients with latent TB are at higher risk for TB disease activation if they are also co-infected with HIV ("co - infection" - simultaneous infection by separate pathogens, as by TB bacteria and HIV virus). In fact, in India, TB is the most common HIV - related opportunistic infection (OI - An opportunistic infection is caused by germs that normally do not bring about disease but cause disease when the body's immune system is impaired as in HIV infected), and caring for patients with both diseases is a major challenge.
TB can be expected to develop in more than half of those who are HIV infected. The risk of developing new TB infection in HIV positives is also greatly increased. Moreover, a patient co-infected has higher risks of recurrence and death. In this scenario, cross referrals and linkage between TB and HIV programs are essential. ICTCs play central role in this. Patients who are positive for TB (sputum positive) are routinely referred to ICTCs for HIV tests as well as HIV positives with cough are referred for TB tests and treatment from ICTC.
What happens when I go to an ICTC (Jyothis)?
At the ICTC, you will be asked about the reason for testing and your risk will be assessed to find out if you need an HIV test at all. You will be provided basic information on HIV/AIDS and be referred to a counsellor for pre - test counselling. Pre - test counselling/education is a confidential dialogue between you and a counsellor. It helps you to take a decision regarding HIV testing and to understand the implications of the test results.
Once it is established that you have had exposure and you consent to take a test, a blood sample is drawn by a lab technician and the test is performed at the lab inside the ICTC. You will get a result within thirty minutes if you are negative. If the test shows a positive result, two other tests are conducted on the same blood drawn to confirm the positive result. The positive test results are confirmed and given the same day.
If the test result comes out negative you are given a post-test counselling to bring about behaviours that reduces the risk of getting infected with HIV in the future. In the case of a positive result the counsellor will help you cope with the result and advice you on implications of the result. She/He will ensure you have access to treatment and care. You will be referred to an ART centre (where treatment is provided) for registration. If you are pregnant you will be provided PPTCT services. Referral to Prathyasha - Drop in Centres and support groups are also offered.
Is my information and test result confidential?
Your information and results will remain absolutely confidential with ICTCs. Only you will be provided with the test results. No one else is notified of your taking the test or test results. You will also be given support to disclose your HIV status to your spouse and family.