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.
Find HIV Testing near you
HIV Testing FAQs
Can I do an HIV test at home?
An at-home HIV test is also known as an HIV self-test. The CDC reports that the only HIV self-test approved by the FDA is an oral fluid test. HIV self-tests can be purchased online or from a pharmacy. Results are ready within 20 minutes of taking the test.
How accurate is HIV testing?
HIV tests are highly accurate, according to the CDC. However, it adds that no HIV test can detect the virus immediately after infection. Your HIV testing provider can work with you to ensure your results are accurate, even if you need a follow-up test.
Are there different types of HIV tests?
There are three types of HIV tests, reports the CDC: antibody tests, antigen/antibody tests, and nucleic acid tests (NATs). Antibody tests look only for HIV antibodies, while antigen/antibody tests look for both HIV antigens and antibodies. NATs look for the actual virus in the blood.
How long does it take for HIV test results to come back?
Results from HIV self-tests are ready within 20 minutes. Results from rapid antibody tests and rapid antigen/antibody tests are ready in 30 minutes or less, says the CDC. It adds that results from NATs are ready within several days.
What are the symptoms that indicate I should have an HIV test?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says you cannot rely on symptoms to determine whether you have HIV and that the only way to find out is by getting an HIV test. Symptoms of HIV include fever, chills, and fatigue, among many others.
Will an HIV test tell me if I have AIDS?
AIDS is the most advanced stage of an HIV infection. An HIV test can tell whether you are infected with HIV, but it cannot tell you how long you have had HIV or if you have AIDS, reports the National Institutes of Health.
If I test negative for HIV, does it mean my partner is also HIV-negative?
The CDC says that your HIV test result reveals only your HIV status and not that of your partner. It recommends that both you and your partner get tested for HIV together so you can both know your status and do what it takes to stay healthy.
What should I do if my HIV test comes back positive?
Make an appointment with your healthcare provider as soon as possible if your HIV test results come back positive. The CDC says that your healthcare provider may guide you through the early stages of your diagnosis and help you find treatment that can help you live a long, healthy life.
Can I be tested for HIV if I am pregnant?
The CDC recommends that all women who are pregnant get tested for HIV. However, it adds that pregnant women have the option to opt out of getting this test if desired. If you are pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider about the benefits of HIV testing during pregnancy.
How can I find an HIV testing provider near me?
A convenient way to find an HIV testing provider near you is to use Solv. Solv can help you identify the top-rated HIV testing providers in your area, and allows you to book a same-day appointment directly from our website or app.
Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
- Getting Tested (June 22, 2022)
- Find an HIV Test (June 22, 2022)
- HIV Screening Test (August 22, 2022)
- Understanding a Positive Result (August 22, 2022) https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/hiv-testing/positive-hiv-results.html
- HIV Self-Testing (June 22, 2022)
- HIV Testing (June 9, 2022)
- Types of HIV Tests (June 22, 2022)
- Symptoms of HIV (June 15, 2022)
- HIV Testing (August 16, 2021)
- Understanding a Negative Result (June 22, 2022)
- An Opt-Out Approach to HIV Screening (November 12, 2019)
- Sharing Your Test Result (June 22, 2022)
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