5. Testing Information You Need To Know…
How can I tell if I’m infected? The only way to know if you are infected is to be tested for HIV infection. You cannot rely on symptoms to know whether or not you are infected. Many people who are infected with HIV do not have any symptoms at all for many years.
For information on where to find an HIV testing site, visit the National HIV Testing Resources web site at http://www.hivtest.org or call CDC-INFO24 Hours/Day at (800) CDC-INFO (232-4636), (888) 232-6348 (TTY).
What are the most effective ways to be tested for infection? In most cases the test is performed on blood drawn from a vein. The blood is checked for the presence of antibodies to HIV. Other body fluids can also be tested to screen for HIV.
Oral Fluid Tests: These tests use oral fluid (not saliva) that is collected from the mouth using a special collection device.
Urine Tests: These tests use urine instead of blood. The sensitivity and specificity (accuracy) of the oral and urine tests are less than that of the traditional blood tests.
Rapid Tests: A rapid test is a screening test that produces very quick results (approximately 20-60 minutes).
Home Testing Kits: In July of 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved OraQuick, the first home test kit for HIV infection. Individuals can purchase the kit at stores and pharmacies and even on-line to test themselves in the privacy of their homes. Chain drugstores, including Duane Reade and CVS, carry the test for around $40.
Departments, clinics, offices of private doctors, hospitals, and other sites set up specifically to provide HIV testing. For information on where to find an HIV testing site, visit the National HIV Testing Resources web site at http://www.hivtest.org, or call CDC-INFO, (800) CDC-INFO (232-4636), (888) 232-6348 (TTY).
How long after possible infection should I wait to get tested? It can take some time for the immune system to produce enough antibodies for the HIV test to detect. This time period can vary from person to person. Most people will develop detectable antibodies within two to eight weeks (the average is 20 days to 25 days). Even so, there is a chance that some people will take longer to develop detectable antibodies. If the initial negative HIV test was conducted within the first three months after possible exposure, repeat testing should be done at six months.
What happens if I test positive? If you test positive for HIV, the sooner you take steps to protect your health, the better. Early medical treatment and a healthy lifestyle can help you stay well. Prompt medical care may delay the onset of AIDS and prevent some life-threatening conditions. There is much you can do to stay healthy. Learn all that you can about maintaining good health.