One in five people in the U.S. who are HIV positive don’t even know it. Let me repeat that: ONE in FIVE!
Today marks National HIV Testing Day, a day that keeps us in check with just how important it is to get tested. So important, because folks of every single race, economic background, and age demographic are at risk for HIV. That’s why Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends HIV testing for every American between the ages of 13 and 64.
The whole idea of getting tested can seem scary or irrelevant to you. But the truth is, these HIV tests are fast, pretty painless, and 100% worth it -- no matter who you are.
So now you know you should get tested, but what are the tests actually like? We’ve got some answers.
Do I have to go to a doctor to get tested?
Nope! You can get tested at your community health clinic, local/state health department or hospital. In some states, you can even get tested at the nearby Walgreens for free. Find out the closest HIV testing center near you to get goin’ ASAP.
Photo: HIV Testing is available at certain drugstores.(Getty Images)
How much does an HIV test cost?
Costs vary, but many community clinics offer tests for free. If you have health insurance, the tests may be covered.
What does it involve?
HIV tests require a blood sample, a urine sample or an oral swab sample from inside your mouth. Some tests take a few days to hear results, but rapid HIV tests can give you an answer in about 20 minutes.
How does the test work?
When someone’s infected with HIV, their body reacts by producing antibodies, proteins which help fight off the disease. Most HIV tests are antibody tests, which means they detect the presence of these antibodies.
What are rapid HIV tests?
Exactly what they sound like: in as little as 20 minutes, you find out your status. A rapid test can either be a quick cotton swab oral test, finger jab test or blood sample. Easy peasy!
Photo: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle get tested for HIV.(Getty Images)
What happens if the test comes back positive?
Take a deep breath -- all positive HIV tests must be followed up by another test to make sure the result is correct. If you do ultimately learn you have HIV it’s important to talk to a health care provider right away, even if you don’t feel any symptoms. With the treatments available today many HIV-positive people live long and healthy lives, but getting the right care and talking to your doctor is key.
So, if I think I may have been exposed to HIV, but then get tested and it comes back negative, I’m in the clear?
Not necessarily. It can take as long as three to six months for your body to develop enough antibodies to show up on a test. These months, known as the “window period”, means you can test negative for HIV but ACTUALLY be infected with HIV and transmit it to others. So, let’s say you think you may have been exposed a week ago, you get tested, and the results come back negative. You’re not off the hook, and should def get re-tested in another 3 months or so. You should also make sure to protect yourself and others by abstaining from sex or using a condom every single time.
If I get my blood drawn at the doctor for my physical, does that automatically mean I’m being tested for HIV?
Nope. You have to specifically ask to be tested for HIV.
Will other people find out I got tested?
Not if you don’t want them to! Your results are hundo confidential. You can also choose to get tested anonymously at many testing centers.