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HIV Testing

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HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) testing facts

  • HIV testing is done to diagnose those who are newly infected, to identify previously unrecognized infections, and to relieve the minds of those who are not infected.
  • New sexual partners should consider getting an HIV test before sex to better inform themselves of how to keep from getting HIV. There is no vaccine, but there are other prevention methods.
  • HIV can infect anyone who has sex, including those with heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, or any variation of sexual contact, so an HIV test can benefit everyone.
  • Every adult can benefit from being tested for HIV at least once. Many people never learn how they got HIV or whom they got it from. Some were monogamous, but their partner was having sex or was using an injected drug outside the relationship.
  • The sooner a person learns they have HIV, the sooner they can get a referral for treatment and live a fairly normal life. Avoiding this knowledge only shortens life and well-being and puts other people at risk in the long run.
  • HIV testing should be a routine part of medical practice. Most states no longer require formal signed consent for HIV testing.
  • It is critical that pregnant women be tested because medications are very effective in reducing transmission of HIV from mother to baby.
  • HIV testing is usually a two-step process. The first step is to test for HIV-specific proteins (antibodies or antigens) in blood or saliva. If the test is positive, a second test called a Western blot is done to ensure that the first result was correct.
  • If both tests are positive, the chances are >99% that the patient is infected with HIV.
  • HIV tests may miss some infections, resulting in false-negative tests. This often occurs soon after infection when antibodies have not yet developed or are just starting to form and are at a level too low to be detected (within about four weeks of infection).
  • There are free HIV testing locations in every state.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/7/2017


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