How Confidential Are Hiv Test Results
Your HIV status, like other medical conditions and test results, is protected by the HIPAA Privacy Rule and cannot be shared with friends, family, or employers without your written permission. Your HIV status may be shared with your healthcare providers who have a “need to know” in order to treat you. Also, in order to determine the incidence of HIV and to provide appropriate prevention and care services, all new cases of HIV are reported to state and local health departments.
Certain testing centers provide either anonymous or confidential HIV testing and counseling. You can also contact your state or local health department to find out where testing may be available.
Who Should Get Tested For Hiv
Roughly one in seven Americans who have HIV dont know they do. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 65 get tested at least once. If you are in a higher risk group, you should consider more frequent testing.
Even if you tested negative, you should get tested if you can answer yes to any of these questions about your activity since that test. Have you:
- Had sex with another man ?
- Had anal or vaginal sex with someone who is HIV-positive?
- Had more than one sex partner?
- Injected drugs with a shared needle?
- Received another STI diagnosis?
- Had sex with someone who could answer yes to any of these questions?
If you believe you may have had HIV exposure within the last 72 hours, talk to your healthcare provider. You may be able to get post-exposure prophylaxis — ie, medication. A PEP can prevent HIV when administered correctly. The sooner you begin to take it, the better, although it isnt 100% effective.
If My Test Is Negative Do I Need Get Tested Again
Talk to your doctor or the counselor or social worker at the testing site to see if you need to get tested again.
Some reasons to get tested again include if you:
- have sex without a condom
- are a guy who has sex with other guys
- have had sex with more than three partners in the past year
- get an STD
- are a woman and are pregnant
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Should I Get Tested For Hiv
If you have never been tested for HIV, you should be tested at least once. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least one HIV test for everyone aged 13 to 64 who visits a doctor. CDC also suggests being tested at least once a year if you do things that can transmit HIV infection. These include:
- injecting drugs or steroids with used injection equipment
- having sex for money or drugs
- having sex with an HIV-infected person
- having more than one sex partner since your last HIV test
- having a sex partner who has had other sex partners since your last HIV test
If you have been tested for HIV and the result is negative and you never do things that might transmit HIV infection, then you and your healthcare provider can decide whether you need to get tested again. Overall, you should talk to your doctor about how often to get tested for HIV.
What Is Being Tested
Human immunodeficiency virus is the virus that can cause acquired immunodeficiency syndrome . HIV screening tests detect the HIV antigen and/or HIV antibodies produced by the body in response to an HIV infection in the blood. Some tests detect HIV antibodies in saliva.
An HIV infection may initially cause no symptoms or cause flu-like symptoms that resolve after a week or two. The only way to determine whether you have been infected is through HIV testing.
If left untreated, an HIV infection can progressively destroy the body’s ability to fight infections and certain cancers. HIV weakens the immune system by infecting lymphocytes , a type of white blood cell, that normally help the body fight infections.
During the first few weeks following infection with HIV, the virus infects T-cells, making numerous copies of itself and continuing to infect more T-cells. The amount of virus and the p24 antigen level in blood can be quite high. HIV tests that detect the p24 antigen can generally identify infections in the first weeks after infection, even before antibodies develop.
About 2-8 weeks after exposure to the virus, the immune system responds by producing antibodies directed against the virus that can be detected in the blood. As the initial infection resolves and the level of HIV antibody increases, both virus and p24 antigen levels decrease in the blood. HIV tests that detect HIV antibodies can identify HIV infections about 2 to 8 weeks after infection.
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What Support Is Available
If you receive an HIV diagnosis, you can find help. Your healthcare provider can recommend support groups and counselors.
If someone tells you they are HIV-positive, they are telling you because they trust you. The time right after diagnosis can be very tough. You can support them in many ways:
- Be a friend. While they may not be ready to talk about their diagnosis right away, show them you care by treating them as you did before.
- Listen. Your friend may just need someone to listen to their concerns and fears. Be there for them.
- Learn about the disease. The reference section of this article has additional information to learn about the condition.
- Encourage them to seek treatment. Your friend may not realize they have options available. They do, and they can get treatment. Help them find it and stick to it.
- Get help for yourself. While it will be a challenging time for your friend, you may need some support too. Talk to others a counselor, for example about any concerns or anxieties you may have.
Should You Get Tested For Hiv If You Dont Think Youre At High Risk
Some people who test positive for HIV were not aware of their risk. That’s why CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care and that people with certain risk factors should get tested more often .
Even if you are in a monogamous relationship , you should find out for sure whether you or your partner has HIV.
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Test Window And Accuracy
If you get a negative result, it’s important to remember that the test may not detect HIV up to three months after infection. You can only be sure you are truly HIV-negative if your most recent test was after the window period and you havent had a potential HIV exposure during the window period. If you have had a potential exposure, you will need to be retested.
Ask The Experts About Hiv
Do you have a question about HIV/AIDS that youd like to ask our experts? Check out our Ask the Experts service, featuring our team of nationally known experts in the field of STIs and sexual health.
How accurate is a negative HIV test after 40 days of possible HIV exposure? Currently, it has been over 8 weeks since my possible HIV exposure. I dont have any symptoms. Should I keep testing for HIV until the six month window is over or was the HIV-1 RNA PCR result at 40 days enough?
It sounds like youve had two different kinds of HIV tests. The first kind, the one used by most clinics as a screening test, looks for antibodies produced by the immune system against the virus. Detectable antibody levels to HIV usually develop within two to eight weeks , but it sometimes takes longer. This test will almost always be reliable three months after exposure, so to be on the safe side, we recommend a second HIV antibody test if the first was done before 90 days after exposure.
The second test you mentioned is the HIV 1 RNA PCR. This is an additional test sometimes performed for people with a high-risk exposure and symptoms of acute HIV disease. An exposure would be considered high-risk, for example, if the partner was known to be HIV positive. If this test was negative at 40 days after exposure, you did not become infected from the exposure you mentioned.
J. Dennis Fortenberry, MD, MS
Versie Johnson-Mallard, PhD, RN, APRN, WHNP-BC
Will Wong, MD
Sexual Health Resource Center Staff
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Why Should I Get Tested If I Am Pregnant
If you are pregnant, it is important to determine if you have HIV so you can be treated. Treatment of HIV-infected mothers during pregnancy, precautions at birth, and avoiding breast-feeding can minimize the risk of passing the infection from mother to child. If you are already taking HIV medications when you become pregnant, you should continue to do so during pregnancy and labor and delivery. If you are not taking HIV medications or have a high viral load during pregnancy, giving the antiretroviral drug zidovudine intravenously during labor and delivery and also to the newborn twice a day by mouth for 6 weeks reduces the rate of transmission from 25-33% to about 1-2%.
Should I Take The Test Again
Periodic testing has the following benefits:
- It takes up to 6 months for the HIV virus to be detected. If you have tested before this time has passed, you should test again to allow for this.
- Always knowing your HIV status may empower you to continue doing the right things.
- May give you an increased peace of mind in knowing you are negative.
- If you should become positive, you will know at the earlier possible moment and will have more treatment options available to you than if you learn about this later.
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Dried Blood Spot Test
A DBS test is a free, accurate and convenient way to test for HIV in the comfort and privacy of your home.
It involves collecting a few drops of blood from your finger and allowing the blood to dry on a test card. You then send the card away to get tested and wait around a week to get the result back. You can register for a DBS HIV test here.
When To Get Tested For Hiv
If you think you might have been exposed to HIV, its best to speak to a healthcare professional immediately.
Even if you dont think you have been at risk, testing regularly is good practice for people who are having sex. Its important to test for HIV during pregnancy. If you know your status, you can avoid passing the virus on to your baby. A window period is the amount of time it takes after infection for a test to give you an accurate result. Its good to know about window periods, but dont delay getting tested if you think you might have been exposed to HIV.
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When Should I Test For Hiv
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , everyone between the age of 13 and 64 years should get tested for human immunodeficiency virus at least once in their lifetime, and more often for those at higher risk. HIV testing is very important for individuals who are sexually active, particularly those who have multiple partners.
Regardless of your background, here are common reasons to consider for HIV screening:
If you recently had unprotected sex with a new partner, its a good idea for both partners to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
The CDC recommends that every pregnant woman must be screened for HIV.
You should get tested before starting post-exposure prophylaxis in cases of sexual assault and occupational needle prick injuries.
You should get tested after completing PEP.
You should get tested quarterly while taking pre-exposure prophylaxis .
Certain groups of people are considered at a higher risk of HIV exposure and, therefore, should be tested for HIV at least once a year. These include:
People who have unprotected intercourse with multiple sexual partners, or who have unprotected intercourse with someone who has multiple sexual partners.
Sexual partners of people who are HIV-positive.
People who inject drugs intravenously or use shared needles, and their sexual partners.
People who already have tuberculosis or hepatitis.
HIV tests are strongly recommended for:
How Is Hiv Tested
HIV can be tested through a blood test from your arm, as a rapid HIV test, or a home HIV test. The HIV test is usually done with either a blood test from the arm or a drop of blood from the fingertip. The most commonly used test in Finland is HIV AgAb. This type of test recognizes both the antigen and antibodies in the serum. The result of vein blood tests are developed within a week. The test on the blood from the fingertip can be conducted as a rapid test, which delivers the results in as little as 1 minute.
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What If I Test Hiv Positive
There are many things you can do to help protect your health if you test positive for HIV. Seeking health care early and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help a person stay healthy. Some specific things you can do if youre positive for HIV are:
- See a doctor, even if you feel well. If possible, see a doctor who is familiar with treating people with HIV. Healthcare providers can inform you on what tests and drug treatment are right for you. There are many new drugs available that can help to slow down the damage that HIV does to the immune system. They can also advise you on other issues, like vaccines, as well as things to avoid in order to keep you healthy.
- Get tested for tuberculosis . Because a person can have an inactive type of bacteria, you may be infected with TB and not know it. TB can be a serious disease for someone who is infected with HIV, but it is curable if detected early.
- Smoking cigarettes, drinking too much alcohol or using illegal drugs can weaken a persons immune system. People can help maintain their immune system health by stopping or reducing their use of these substances. There are many programs that can help you quit if you need to.
The CDC can provide you with more information what to do if you test positive for HIV. They can also provide you with referrals to doctors, treatment programs and other services for HIV-infected individuals.
How Do You Get Hiv
HIV is a sexually transmitted infection. The most common way for someone to get it is through a sexual activity where you exchange bodily fluids. This activity includes vaginal, oral and anal sex. However, you can contract the virus in other ways, including:
- Sharing needles with an infected person to take drugs.
- Passing between a mother and her unborn child.
- Rarely, from a blood transfusion .
A lot of misinformation exists about how you can get HIV. You cannot contract HIV from:
- Air or water.
- Touch, such as shaking hands, hugging or social, closed-mouth kissing.
- Pets or insects, such as mosquitoes and ticks.
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Why Do I Need An Hiv Test
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. You may also need an HIV test if you are at higher risk for infection. HIV is mainly spread through sexual contact and blood, so you may be at a higher risk for HIV if you:
- Are a man that has had sex with another man
- Have had sex with an HIV-infected partner
- Have had multiple sex partners
- Have injected drugs, such as heroin, or shared drug needles with someone else
HIV can spread from mother to child during birth and through breast milk, so if you are pregnant your doctor may order an HIV test. There are medicines you can take during pregnancy and delivery to greatly reduce your risk of spreading the disease to your baby.
Who Should Be Tested
Testing is recommended if:
- You think you may have been exposed to the HIV. If youre not sure, take this anonymous survey.
- You are sexually active
- You received a blood transfusion between 1977 and 1985, or a sexual partner received a transfusion and later tested positive for HIV.
- You are uncertain about your sexual partners risk behaviors.
- You are a male who has had sex with another male at any time since 1977.
- Any of your male sexual partners has had sex with another male since 1977.
- You have used street drugs by injection since 1977, especially when sharing needles and/or other equipment.
- You have a sexually transmitted disease , including pelvic inflammatory disease .
- You are a health care worker with direct exposure to blood on the job.
- You are pregnant. There are now treatments that can greatly reduce the risk that a pregnant woman who has HIV will give the virus to her baby.
- You are a woman who wants to make sure you are not infected with HIV before getting pregnant.
Even if you have no risk factors for HIV infection, you may still want to get tested to ease your own mind. This also encourages everyone to be more responsible about HIV transmission.
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How Soon Can I Take An Hiv Test
This question usually refers to how soon after exposure can someone test for HIV.
This used to involve waiting 3 to 4 weeks before taking an HIV test .
However, 2020 UK guidelines now recommend waiting 6 weeks.
This is because 4th generation HIV tests will detect 99% of infections at 6 weeks compared to 95% of infections 4 weeks after exposure.
A negative test after four weeks needs to be confirmed with a second test three months after the risk. This is to cover the small chance that you take longer than four weeks to generate an antibody response.
Extending this to 6 weeks means the confirmatory test is no longer needed.
In high risk exposures, especially if symptoms occur, viral load testing is sometimes used after one week. This includes after a sexual assault or after a needlestick injury to a healthcare worker.
In these cases a viral load test can exclude an infection when there are symptoms.
Viral load tests are not approved to diagnose HIV. A negative result still needs to be confirmed by an antibody test three months after the risk.
Figure 6: Recommended time from exposure to HIV test *
* This diagram needs to be updated to show the six-week window.