Anonymous on October 18, 2011

I haven’t always had safer sex. How do I test for HIV?

How do I test for HIV? I’m a 28-year-old guy and I’m kind of concerned about some of the sexual risks I took when I was younger. I don’t even know where to start when it comes to testing for HIV. Please help. 

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on October 18, 2011

You asked a great question, and you’re not alone...many people worry about how their past sexual behaviors might affect their health today. But it’s never too late to get tested, and there are a number of options available to you.

  1. Decide where you’d like to go. You can likely get tested for HIV at your regular doctor’s office. Most county health departments also offer HIV testing, as well as testing for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). You can also get tested for HIV online...if you choose this option, make sure the testing service includes a doctor’s consultation when results are positive.
  2. Decide what type of test you want. Since you’re more concerned about a possible past exposure to HIV, not a recent exposure, the HIV Antibody Test is likely your best bet. This type-specific test screens for both HIV-1 and HIV-2, and ⎼ with an accuracy rate of 99% ⎼ it’s the gold standard for HIV testing, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  3. Go to a lab or doctor's office near you...and provide a blood sample for testing. 
  4. Get your test results. If you test positive for HIV, don’t despair. New and increasingly effective HIV medications continue to improve the length and quality of life for people living with HIV.

Thanks again for your question. And if you’re interested in more information about HIV tests, as well as treatment options and how to have safer sex, you might want to browse our Expert Guide to HIV. 

Related info:

Lisa Oldson, MD

Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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