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HIV Testing

Getting tested for HIV is the only way to learn your status. Knowing your HIV status is key to getting treated early on if you test positive and keeping your partner safe.

HIV testing is widely available at many walk-in clinics and urgent care centers across the United States. If you need an HIV test, use Solv to narrow your options to the top-rated providers in your area and book an appointment right away.

Who should get an HIV test?

Everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should get tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime, suggests the CDC. People who meet risk factors for HIV should be tested more frequently, or at least once per year.

According to the CDC HIV risk factors are:

  • Being a male who has had sex with another male.
  • Having had vaginal or anal sex with someone who has HIV.
  • Having had more than one sex partner since you were last tested for HIV.
  • Having shared drug injection equipment with others, such as needles or syringes.
  • Having had sex with someone in exchange for drugs or money.
  • Being diagnosed with or treated for another sexually transmitted infection.
  • Being diagnosed with or treated for hepatitis or tuberculosis.
  • Having had sex with someone who has practiced any of the behaviors listed above.
  • Having had sex with someone whose sexual history isn’t familiar to you.

Talk to your healthcare provider if unsure whether you can benefit from an HIV test. Your provider can discuss HIV risk factors in greater detail and make a sound recommendation.

How to get an HIV test

HIV testing is a service offered by many healthcare providers, says the CDC. This test is available at medical clinics, urgent care centers, walk-in clinics, substance abuse recovery centers, community health centers, and hospitals. The CDC adds that most HIV tests are available for free or at a reduced cost, and can even be purchased online or from a pharmacy.

Contact your healthcare provider or your local health department to locate an HIV testing provider. Or, use Solv to browse locations of HIV testing providers in your local area.

What to expect during an HIV test

HIV testing involves having a sample of your blood or saliva checked for the presence of HIV. Your HIV test provider can explain in greater detail how your test will work and what to expect. If you use an at-home HIV test, the test kit will provide you with explicit instructions on how to take the test.

An HIV test that requires a blood sample may be performed using either a needle or a small lancet, reports the National Library of Medicine (NLM). A needle is used to draw blood from a vein in your arm, while a lancet is used to prick your finger for a small sample of blood. If you are having a blood test, you may experience slight bruising or soreness at the site where the needle or lancet went in.

For an HIV test that requires a saliva sample, your healthcare provider will wipe a swab across your gums to collect a sample, adds the NLM. Most at-home HIV test kits come with a small lancet for a finger prick or a special swab that collects saliva.

If you get an HIV test in a healthcare setting, the provider will send your blood or saliva sample to the lab where it is analyzed and checked for the presence of HIV. If you take an at-home saliva test, your results may be ready within minutes. NLM notes that if you take an at-home blood test, you will be required to send your sample to the lab address specified in the test packaging where lab technicians can check it for HIV.

How to prepare for an HIV test

No preparation is needed for an HIV test, reports the NLM. However, it adds that you may want to consider writing down a list of questions for your testing provider, especially if you meet risk factors for this disease.

Another factor you may want to consider before getting an HIV test is whether you want your test results to be anonymous or confidential. Anonymous testing means that only you will know the test result, while confidential testing means your result will be added to your medical records, says the CDC.

Talk to your HIV testing provider if you want your results to stay anonymous. Another way to ensure your test results stay anonymous is to do an at-home HIV test, notes the CDC.

Testing positive for HIV

If your HIV test results come back positive, it means that signs of an HIV infection were found in your blood or saliva sample, says the NLM. The CDC adds that you will need a follow-up test to confirm that your results are positive. If your HIV follow-up test comes back positive, it means you have HIV the CDC reports.

If you took your HIV test at a lab or healthcare center and the results are positive, your provider will do a follow-up test using the same blood sample that was initially used, reports the CDC. If you did an at-home test or tested in a community program, the CDC recommends visiting a healthcare center to do a follow-up test.

When you test positive for HIV, you will need to start antiretroviral therapy (ART) right away, even if you are still healthy, says the NLM. NLM notes that ART may lower the amount of HIV in your blood to help you stay healthy and protect others. The CDC adds that ART is recommended for all people with HIV, regardless of how healthy they are or how long they’ve had the virus.

Contact your healthcare provider right away if you test positive for HIV. Your provider can help you find the right type of ART and work with you to manage your condition.

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