Who should get tested and when?

The Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should get tested for HIV at least. People who have a higher risk of getting HIV should get tested more often. Those who have a higher risk of getting HIV are:

  • Men who have sex with men
  • Anyone who had sex with an HIV-positive partner
  • Anyone who had more than 1 sex partner since their last HIV test
  • Anyone who injected drugs and shared their needle
  • Anyone who had sex for drugs or money
  • Anyone who had a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • Anyone who has hepatitis or tuberculosis
  • Anyone who had sex with someone whose sexual history they didn’t know

Sexually active men who have sex with men have the highest risk of getting HIV. These men should plan to get tested for HIV every 3 to 6 months.

Where can you get tested?

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For more information on this widget, please visit HIV.gov.

It’s easy to find an HIV testing center near you. When you type your zip code into the HIV.gov search bar on the left side of this page, a map will show you HIV testing centers in your area.

The next time you see a healthcare provider, you can ask them where you can get tested for HIV. You can also buy an HIV testing kit to test yourself for HIV.

 

 

“When we were in the waiting room, somebody came out and said, ‘By the way, we are also testing for HIV,’ and my heart jumped. It had been years since I thought about HIV…”

Read more of David’s story on our Community Stories page here: Community Stories

What types of HIV testing are there?

 

There are 3 types of HIV tests.

Nucleic Acid Test (NAT)
This test uses a sample of your blood to count the amount of the virus in your blood. A NAT can tell you if you have HIV as soon as 10 to 30 days after you came in contact with the virus. This test costs the most of all HIV tests, so it isn’t done often.

Antigen/Antibody Test
This test uses a sample of your blood to look for HIV antibodies and antigens. Antibodies are what your body makes to fight off anything that makes you sick. An antigen is another name for anything that makes you sick. The antigen/antibody test can tell you if you have HIV as soon as 18 to 45 days after you came in contact with the virus. This test is very common in the United States.

Antibody Test
This test uses a sample of your blood to look for HIV antibodies. Your body makes antibodies to fight off anything it thinks will make you sick. The antibody test can tell you if you have HIV as soon as 23 to 90 days after you came in contact with the virus. Most rapid HIV tests and HIV home collection kits you can do at home are antibody tests. To examples of antibody tests are:

1. Rapid HIV Test:These tests can tell you if you have HIV in under 30 minutes. You can use a sample of your blood or spit for this test.

2. HIV Home Collection Kit: You can buy these tests at a drug store or online. You would first prick your finger to draw blood. Then, you would mail your blood sample to the kit’s laboratory. You can call as soon as the next day to find out if the test was positive or negative.

If an antibody test says you’re positive, you will need to take another test to make sure the first test was right.

If any HIV test says you’re negative, you might have to get tested against to make sure the first test was right. This is because of the HIV tests have a window period. The window period is the time between when you have contact with HIV and the time a test can tell if you have HIV. If you take an HIV test during a window period, the test might think you don’t have HIV even if you do.

Why should you get tested?

If you test positive for HIV, you can start antiretroviral therapy (HIV medications) to stay healthy. If you test negative for HIV, you can think about how you can use tools like condoms or PrEP to stay HIV-negative. Whether you test positive or negative, its always better to know your HIV status so you know the best ways to take care of yourself.

All HIV tests are fully covered by health insurance. If you don’t have insurance, there may be a clinic near you that gives free HIV tests to the community.