Getting an HIV test is the just the beginning. A positive test result gives you the chance to keep ahead of the virus. A negative test result gives you the opportunity to stay that way.
Scroll down to watch video interviews, learn more about HIV testing, find out where you can get an HIV test, read an introduction to HIV/AIDS and find additional resources.
Also, scroll to the bottom to tell us your HIV testing stories!
Advice on HIV testing from various perspectives:
HIV Status: Negative
HIV Status: Positive
HIV Status: Negative
HIV Status: Positive
Watch videos from several organizations, including POZ.
Why Get an HIV Test?
Getting tested for HIV is a smart thing to do. Still, many people refuse to get tested. Some find the idea of getting tested too frightening, even though they will often continue to agonize about whether they're infected. Others think of testing as unnecessary and hold on to the belief that HIV can't happen to them.
Many times when people get tested, they happily discover their concern was unfounded. The assurance that comes from a negative test result can provide enormous relief. For others, getting tested and learning they are HIV positive is the first important step towards staying healthy.
One of the most basic truths about HIV is that gender, age, race and economic status are irrelevant when it comes to vulnerability to HIV. Anyone can become infected. Despite huge advances in treatment and a wealth of knowledge, the HIV epidemic is going to be with us for a long time to come. At present, there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but there are medications that have proven very effective in keeping HIV-positive people alive, longer and healthier.
Knowing your accurate HIV status through testing is essential to good health and long life.
About the HIV Test
An HIV test shows if someone is infected with HIV, the virus that attacks the body's immune system and causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or what is more commonly known as AIDS. There are several different tests that can be used to determine if you are carrying the HIV virus. The most commonly used tests look for antibodies to the virus in the blood, mouth or urine.
If an initial test is negative—meaning that antibodies have not been found—the testing is complete. If it is positive, additional testing is necessary to make sure that it is not a "false-positive" result (some molecules in the bloodstream can sometimes cause this). First, the laboratory may repeat the initial blood, mouth or urine-based test. If it's positive, the laboratory will conduct a blood test called Western blot. If both the initial test and the Western blot test yield a positive result, a diagnosis of HIV infection is confirmed and the results are sent back to the health care professional who ordered the test.
Many testing sites now offer rapid testing, involving oral swabs and blood from pin pricks. Results using these rapid tests are usually available within 20 minutes or so. If you have blood drawn for an HIV test, it can take between one and two weeks to learn the results. If it seems as if you are waiting a long time for your results, this in no way indicates a "positive" outcome and that the laboratory needs more time to conduct additional tests.
To learn more about HIV testing, including the different types of tests that are available, click here. If you're uncomfortable being tested for HIV by your own health care provider, there are anonymous and confidential testing sites you can go to. To learn about sites near you, search our AIDS Services Directory.
An Introduction to HIV/AIDS
If you test positive for the virus, one of the most important tools that you will have in fighting HIV is your relationship with your doctor. It's worth spending time looking for the right doctor, and changing doctors who don't work for you. If at all possible, find a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.
To ask for advice on finding a doctor with experience treating people with HIV, contact your local AIDS service organization (ASO)—they usually have a list of recommended doctors in your area. To find your local ASO, you can search our AIDS Services Directory.
Talk to your doctor—see if you feel comfortable with him or her. If you don't feel comfortable discussing your most personal stuff with the doctor then maybe you should change doctors. Remember—your doctor works for you.
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions if you are newly diagnosed: