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Frequently Asked Questions About HIV Testing

Should I be tested?
You may be at risk for HIV infection and should be tested if:
You have had unprotected sex (sex without a condom).
You are a man who has had unprotected sex with another man.
You have shared needles for injection drug use, tattooing, or body piercing.
You have had several sex partners.
You have had a sexually transmitted disease.
You have received blood or clotting factor between 1978 and 1985.
You have had sex with any of the persons described above.
You have had unprotected sex with a person who has HIV.

When should I get tested?
If you think you were exposed to HIV, you should wait 90 days before being tested. HIV testing generally looks for HIV antibodies in the blood, saliva, or urine. The immune system produces these antibodies to fight HIV. Most people will develop detectable antibodies within 3 months after infection.

What are the different types of HIV tests?
The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. There are a number of different ways to test for HIV, including:

Standard Blood Test
A blood sample is drawn. Results can take up to two weeks.
Oral Test
The inside of your mouth is swabbed to collect a sample. This involves no blood or finger pricking. Results can take up to two weeks.
Rapid Test
There are three types of rapid HIV tests. The first rapid blood test uses a finger prick to obtain a small sample of blood and provides results in about 20 minutes. Another rapid blood test uses serum or plasma (instead of a finger prick) and can provide results in less than 30 minutes. The oral fluid rapid test is done by wiping a treated swab along the gums of the mouth and provides results in 20 minutes. Be advised not all testing locations offer all of these options.
Home Test
There is only one FDA-approved home HIV testing kit. It is called Home Access and is available at drug stores or online at www.homeaccess.com. The test involves pricking your own finger with a special device to collect a small sample of your blood and mailing it in to be tested. Results are provided by phone. Although there are other "home tests" available on the Internet, we strongly urge you not to use them, as they are not approved by the FDA and often provide inaccurate results.
Urine Test
The urine test is another alternative to a blood test. You provide a urine sample to your health care provider and the sample is screened in a lab. Results can take up to two weeks.

What is anonymous and confidential HIV testing?
In the United States, HIV tests are either anonymous or confidential.

Anonymous HIV Testing
You do not have to give your name when you are tested, or when you receive the test results. Only you and the person testing you will know your results. And only you can reveal your results to others.
Confidential HIV Testing
Your name is recorded along with your test results in a medical record. Results may be made available to medical personnel. Records are kept secret from everyone except medical personnel. This is the type of test you would have if you went to your family doctor for the test. If you have any privacy concerns, talk to your health care provider before taking the test.

What is Informed Consent?
When you get tested, you will need to sign a form stating that you understand how testing is done and that you want to take the test. This is called an informed consent.

Before you sign the form, the testing site staff will talk with you about several things:
Information about the test and how it's done
The meaning and accuracy of test results
The choice of testing with or without your name (confidential or anonymous).
Other services that can assist you.

Where can I get tested?
Click here to search for HIV testing services near you or call our 24-hour toll free hotline for a referral to a testing site in your area at 1-800-334-2437. If you live outside Wisconsin, you may call CDC INFO at 1-800-232-4636 to get testing sites in your area, or you may search online at www.hivtest.org.

 

If you don't find the information you are looking for on this website, the
Wisconsin HIV, STD, and Hepatitis C Information & Referral Center
hotline can provide information about STDs.
Please call us toll free in Wisconsin
1-800-334-2437

Or call CDC INFO at
1-800-232-4636

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