HIV Testing

Return to: Get the Facts

  1. Anyone who has put him-/herself at risk of HIV infection (i.e., by having unprotected sex or by sharing needles for drugs or other purposes) should be tested. In addition, anyone who is sexually active should be tested regularly. While it may seem scary, the process is surprisingly quick and easy—and getting tested is wise.
    1. If you are HIV-negative, you will have the reassurance of knowing your status.
    2. If you are HIV-positive, knowing your status is crucial for the following reasons:
      1. If diagnosed early, you can seek treatment which can slow the progression of the disease, enabling you to live a longer, healthier life.
      2. You can avoid infecting others with HIV.

  2. The procedure commonly known as an HIV test actually tests for the antibodies to HIV. For this reason, it can take some time after infection before testing will yield a positive result. Therefore, if a person puts him-/herself at risk of HIV infection, he/she must wait three months before getting tested in order to be sure of an accurate result. Nevertheless, if the person is infected with HIV, he/she will still be infectious (able to transmit HIV to others) during this time, which is known as the window period. Acute HIV infection is the period after a person seroconverts (first becomes HIV-positive). It is during this time that a person is most infectious. If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, it is important to use condoms or abstain from sex throughout the window period outlined above.
  3. It is impossible to become infected with HIV by getting tested or giving blood. It is a myth that donating blood can result in HIV infection.
  4. Young people often believe they are prevented from getting tested for HIV—when in fact there are resources to help them. Below are some commonly perceived or experienced barriers, followed by clarifications or potential solutions:
    1. Mistakenly believing that payment is required in order to get an HIV test. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and many community health clinics and community-based organizations offer free HIV and STD testing for individuals. (See External Resources to find out where to obtain a free HIV test.)
    2. Not knowing where to go for a test and/or not being able to get to the site during testing hours. See External Resources to find out where to obtain an HIV test. Call the sites to ask about testing hours and how they can accommodate you.
    3. Mistakenly believing that parental consent is required. While parental consent is not required in order to obtain an HIV test, it is true that some states allow parental notification of a positive test result at the physician’s discretion. For this reason, some young people may wish to seek a site that provides anonymous or confidential testing.
      1. An anonymous test does not require a name, and only the person getting tested can reveal the results.
      2. A confidential test requires the person’s name, but the results are only shared with medical personnel and, in some states, the state health department. When seeking a confidential test, it is important to inquire in advance as to who will have access to the results.

  5. Not having insurance and/or a regular health care provider. Child Health Plus offers free or low-cost health insurance for individuals under the age of 19 who do not qualify for Medicaid and who are not covered under private insurance.

It was really good to hear other parents talk about things that I thought only I think about. I will now be able to talk more freely with my daughter.

– Parent Workshop Participant

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