HIV Testing and Results

Getting Tested for HIV

The first and most important step in HIV prevention is regular testing. If you are sexually active and having unprotected (i.e. vaginal or anal sex without condoms) or you’re sharing needles with others we recommend a test at least every six months to a year. If you are living with HIV early testing and treatment can be the key to living a long and healthy life.  There are a number of options available for testing and things you should know during each stage of the process. 

Types of Tests

There are three types of tests available; the rapid and standard test detects antibodies in your blood where the early HIV test detects the virus. In addition to accessing an HIV test many clinics and points-of-care will offer anonymous testing.

  1. The Standard HIV test can be used for routine testing or when the Rapid HIV test is not available. The Standard HIV test detects HIV antibodies in the blood.
  2. The Rapid HIV test is useful for routine testing and/or if you don’t want to wait several days for the results. The Rapid HIV test detects HIV antibodies in the blood. Most people (about 90%) will develop enough HIV antibodies to be detected three to four weeks after infection.  The Rapid HIV test gives you a result in a few minutes, eliminating the stress of waiting a week for results. 
  3. The Early HIV test is useful if you’ve had a recent risk incident (anal sex without a condom with someone whose status was different or unknown) or a known exposure to HIV. The Early test reduces the window period (the time you have to wait before getting tested) to only ten to 12 days. The Early HIV test looks for the actual HIV virus, not antibodies produced in response to the virus. That means the test can detect if you are infected when you are still in the window period of an antibody test.

Before you get tested

An HIV test can feel nerve wracking and even if you don’t think you’re at risk for contracting HIV the test results may still feel daunting.

During your test

Each of the above tests draws varying amounts of blood; they are all relatively quick and painless.

The Results

Unless you take the rapid test you’ll have to wait at least couple of days for your results.

If you’ve tested positive we recognize that you may be shocked and uncertain what to do next. Consider reaching out for support from agencies like Black CAP to get the help you may need and advice about who to tell, when to tell them and what to do next. Remember that many people live long and happy lives with good treatment and care. If you have tested positive for HIV and want to know how to live with HIV there is more information on our Living with HIV page.