What is an HIV test?
The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. The test for HIV is not an AIDS test. This test detects antibodies to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The body of the infected person produces antibodies to fight HIV infection. If the results of an HIV antibody test are positive, it means that HIV has entered the body.
When should I be tested?
Because HIV antibodies can take weeks to appear in the test, the test results of newly infected people may still be negative. During this waiting period, it is important to try to abstain from any activity that might transmit the infection to others. Do not have sex, or if you do, make sure you use a latex condom every time. Do not inject any drugs, but if you do, do not use the same syringe or needle that will be or has been used by another person. If you have to share these things with others, be sure to sanitize them with bleach and water.
Why should I get tested?
Anyone who engages in higher risk activity should be tested regularly. It’s important to know your status because it can help you decide how to adjust your practices and lifestyle to help prevent contraction of HIV for yourself, transmission of HIV to others, and to begin seeking HIV specialized treatment if an HIV infection is present in your body.
Where do I go to get tested?
Many local health departments, family planning clinics, substance use programs and other organizations offer HIV testing sponsored by the New York State Department Health. These centers provide confidential testing (where you give your name) or anonymous testing (where your name is not required). You can also ask your doctor to administer a test. You can also find a testing location by calling (866) 934-8693, and you can log onto mytestresults.com to get your test results.
Call 311 for more information on AIDS/HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Visit the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene www.nyc.gov. Take a look at the interactive NYC DOH map below as an additional source for HIV specific services.
What happens when you go to get tested?
In testing centers, a counselor will talk with you about the test and will likely ask questions about why you think there’s a chance you have been infected with HIV? In order to administer the test, a small amount of blood will be drawn from your finger or arm. In some cases, cells from inside your mouth are collected and tested. You may have to wait two weeks or more to see the results. Talk to your counselor about when to return and make sure you go to find out the results. In HIV testing centers funded by DSHS, the results can only be given in person, not by phone or mail.
What does it mean if the result is negative?
A negative test result means no HIV antibodies were detected at the time of testing. However, if in the past three months you’ve had any sexual contact without a condom or shared any needles with others, you should be tested. Talk to your counselor and tell the truth about any high risk behavior so that you can discuss taking further steps like coming in again to be tested in the future. A negative test result does not mean that a person is immune to an HIV infection. If you are negative and have sex without a protective barrier or if you share an injection needle with someone else, you can still become infected in the future.
What does it mean if the result is positive?
The test for HIV antibodies is very accurate. Any positive test is repeated and confirmed before results are reported. A positive result means you are infected with HIV. It is not a death sentence. People with HIV can live in good health for many years without any sign of disease. You will be encouraged to consult a doctor right away to have other tests to see how your immune system is functioning and to detect other infections. Additionally, you may be provided with information on how to access HIV specialized health care.
If the result is positive, your counselor or other health professional will discuss how to inform the people with whom they had sex or shared a needle. Although it may be difficult to discuss this issue, these people have to know they are at risk. Public health professionals are experts in how to inform these people in confidence (ie, without giving any information about you). Maybe it’s better to use this service rather than inform yourself.