HIV guide

HIV testing

How do I get tested for HIV?

We make getting tested for HIV simple by offering the HIV Antibody Test. It is safe, reliable and easy (no undressing or swabbing required!). Just one fast blood draw and you're on your way.

HIV Antibody Test With Confirmation

The HIV Antibody test is the most common screening for HIV-1 and HIV-2. This test looks for antibodies to the virus in the blood and, after seroconversion, has an accuracy rate of 99%.

Seroconversion, or the "testing window," can range anywhere from 25 days to 12 weeks after exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people infected with HIV will develop detectable antibodies within 25 days of exposure and 97% of people will have HIV antibodies by three months after exposure. If you get tested immediately after you've been exposed to HIV, this test will not be accurate.

"Confirmation" simply means that all positive test results are followed up with another test to confirm the results...using the same blood sample and with no additional cost to you.

What HIV test results mean

A negative HIV test result means that the virus was not detected in your blood. But because HIV may not yet be detectable if you get tested too soon after possible exposure to the virus, you'll want to get tested again three months after exposure to confirm that you're negative. Repeat testing after seroconversion is complete is critical to ensure the most accurate diagnosis.

A positive HIV test result means that you may be infected with HIV... but that doesn't necessarily mean you have AIDS, which is the final and most serious stage of HIV infection. Even better, thanks to antiretroviral therapy that slows down the progression to AIDS, a positive test result is not a death sentence... HIV infection can be treated and managed to maintain a good quality of life for as long as possible.

If you test positive, we're here to help. You'll have the opportunity to consult with a doctor on the phone right away. We'll answer your questions and help you determine the next steps based on your specific circumstances.

Note: As with hepatitis B and C, if you test positive for HIV, you should not donate blood.

Understanding false-positive or false-negative test results

As with most medical tests, there's a chance that a positive test result indicates an infection when there isn't one (false-positive); or a test comes back negative, despite the presence of infection (false-negative). For example, a false-negative test result can happen if an infected person tests too early for a positive infection to be detected...that means it's possible to get a negative test result but still have HIV or another STD.

If you're concerned about the reliability of your test results for any reason (e.g., timing, or your sexual history, or your partner's sexual history), we recommend that you get re-tested three months after your possible exposure to the virus to confirm your results...and to minimize the risk of being a carrier and potentially developing more serious symptoms down the road.

Learn more about "testing windows" – the recommended amount of time between potential exposure to an STD infection, and when screening is expected to identify the infection (or reinfection); for example, if you had unprotected sex last night and became infected with HIV, the virus wouldn't necessarily show up right away... it can take up to three months to test positive although, again, most people infected with HIV will develop detectable antibodies within 25 days of exposure.

Last reviewed by Lisa Oldson, MD, January 2011.

Lisa Oldson, MD

STD expert

"The first thing I tell a patient about STDs is that if you're worried about one STD, you should probably worry about all STDs. In other words, if you had unprotected sex and you're worried about a possible HIV exposure, it's important to understand that hepatitis can be spread in the same fashion...ditto for chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis."