What is HIV Antibody Testing?

 What is HIV Antibody Testing?HIV testing determines whether or not you are infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). This virus destroys the body’s ability to fight off illness, and is the cause of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). 

Why Should I Be Tested? – The Benefits of Knowing

  •  Immune system monitoring and early treatment can greatly improve your long term health. 
  •  Knowing you are positive may help you change behaviors that would put yourself and others at risk. 
  •  You will know whether or not you can infect others. 
  •  Women and their partners considering pregnancy can take advantage of treatments that potentially prevent transmission of HIV to the baby. 
  • If you test negative, you may feel less anxious after testing.

How Is HIV Spread?

 Anal, vaginal, or oral sex without a condom. If you have another sexually transmitted disease, you chances of contracting HIV during sex are much higher.  


  • Direct blood or mucous membrane contact with an infected person’s blood.
  • From an infected mother to her child, during pregnancy, birth, or breast feeding.
  • Sharing needles or equipment for drug use.

Who Should Be Tested?

  Testing is recommended if: 


  • You think you may have been exposed to the HIV. If you’re not sure, take this anonymous survey.
  • You are sexually active (3 or more sexual partners in the last 12 months)
  • You received a blood transfusion between 1977 and 1985, or a sexual partner received a transfusion and later tested positive for HIV.
  • You are uncertain about your sexual partner’s risk behaviors.
  • You are a male who has had sex with another male at any time since 1977.
  • Any of your male sexual partners has had sex with another male since 1977.
  • You have used street drugs by injection since 1977, especially when sharing needles and/or other equipment.
  • You have a sexually transmitted disease (STD), including pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
  • You are a health care worker with direct exposure to blood on the job.
  • You are pregnant. There are now treatments that can greatly reduce the risk that a pregnant woman who has HIV will give the virus to her baby.
  • You are a woman who wants to make sure you are not infected with HIV before getting pregnant.

 Even if you have no risk factors for HIV infection, you may still want to get tested to ease your own mind. This also encourages everyone to be more responsible about HIV transmission. 

When Should I Be Tested?

 After a possible HIV exposure:An HIV test will not detect the presence of the HIV virus immediately after exposure. Statistics show that 96% (perhaps higher) of all infected individuals will test positive within 2 to 12 weeks. In some cases, this may take up to six months.Think about this: if you got a negative test at six weeks, would you believe it? Would it make you less anxious? If so, go for it. But to be certain, you will need to be tested again at six months. 

 Periodic Testing:

  • Many people continue to engage in some degree of risky behavior, and choose to be tested for HIV periodically (every six months, every year, or every other year.)Since the window period for developing a positive test result can be as long as six months, it would rarely make sense to be tested more often than this.There are clear benefits to early medical attention for infection with the HIV virus. There is little agreement on how early this must be. But if you wait longer than two years, treatment of the disease may be less effective.
  • If you are beyond the six month window period from a possible HIV transmission event and were reported HIV negative by an accurate HIV test (and you are not subsequently put at risk for HIV), you can consider yourself HIV negative. There is no need to retest. However if it eases your anxiety, you may wish to take the test again periodically.

What About My Privacy?

Anonymous testing means that absolutely no one has access to your test results since your name is never recorded at the test site. Confidential testing sometimes means identifying yourself in some manner to the test site, with their assurance that this information will remain private.Anonymous test sites are highly recommended because:

  • The quality of the education and counseling that is provided is very good.
  • The testing is usually free.
  • The testing is reliable and automatically includes confirming tests.
  • It protects you from risks of discrimination or adverse impact, especially in applications for insurance.
  • Sometimes even taking an HIV test, regardless of the result, might cause an insurance application to be refused.

Anonymous testing sites never give written results. Some sites who do anonymous testing also do confidential testing, which may also include written results. At least 11 states do not currently provide anonymous testing.



What Do My Test Results Mean?

 A negative test result means:

  • If you have not engaged in any risky behaviors for the last 6 months, you are not currently infected with HIV. If you have had unprotected sex or shared needles or have other risk factors in the last 6 months, you should be tested again. You could still be HIV positive, and pass the HIV on to other people, even though your test is negative.
  • A negative test does not mean that you are immune to HIV.
  • Some people who have a negative test may be tempted to continue risk behaviors, believing “It can’t happen to me.” If you continue unsafe behaviors, you are still at risk.


A positive test result means:

  • You are infected with the HIV virus. This does not necessarily mean that you have AIDS.
  • A person with HIV is infected for life. He or she can pass the virus to others by having unprotected sex, or by sharing drug use needles or equipment. To protect yourself and others, you need to avoid doing these things. A woman who has HIV can pass it on to her unborn or breast feeding baby. Those carrying the HIV virus should not donate blood, plasma, semen, body organs, or other tissue.
  • You should choose a doctor to monitor the progression of HIV in your body, and advise you on when it is appropriate to begin treatment. There are differing opinions about how early to begin treatment, but it’s clearly much better to begin treatment long before symptoms of AIDS develop. The only way you can tell when to begin treatment is by having a doctor interpret additional tests. You may wish to change to a doctor that specializes in HIV care.
  • If your HIV test is positive, your sexual partners and anyone with whom you have shared drug injection equipment may also be infected. They should be told they have been exposed to HIV and advised to seek HIV counseling and antibody testing. You can tell them yourself, work with your doctor, or ask for help from the local health department. Health departments do not reveal your name to sexual or drug-use partners, only the fact that they have been exposed to HIV.

Should I Take the Test Again?

 Periodic testing has the following benefits:

  • It takes up to 6 months for the HIV virus to be detected. If you have tested before this time has passed, you should test again to allow for this.
  • Always knowing your HIV status may empower you to continue doing the right things.
  • May give you an increased peace of mind in knowing you are negative.
  • If you should become positive, you will know at the earlier possible moment and will have more treatment options available to you than if you learn about this later.

Where Can I Get Tested?

 You can arrange for HIV testing at an established testing center, or at your doctor’s office. Test results are usually available within one to two weeks. Home test kits allow you to mail in a sample, and receive your results sometime later via telephone. 

If you need help finding a free, confidential center near you CLICK HERE for national HIV testing locations.  If you would like to talk to someone and have any questions, you can contact the National AIDS Hotline at (800) 342-2437 (24 hrs/day, 365 days/year). 

Home Testing - Is It For Me?

 Problems with Home Testing

  • Getting test results over the phone can be very difficult, especially if the test is positive. A person can just hang up and never hear all the counseling and information they need to hear. Test counseling is best done face-to-face, and is most effective this way.
  • If someone sees you purchase the test, finds the packaging in the garbage, or sees your test ID card, then your confidentiality may be compromised.

 What Test Should I Buy?
Be sure you get an FDA approved test kit, such as “Home Access.” Other tests are available, and some have been shown to be inaccurate. These are available over-the-counter at most drug stores.  

I've Taken the Test. What Happens Now?

  • Depending on the test you take, you may have to wait a week or more obtain your results.
  • If you can, take a friend with you to pick up your results – especially if this is your first test or if it has been a long time since you last tested. They may be a source of comfort for you if your results are positive. If not, the two of you can celebrate together.
  • Some more recently developed tests can provide you with your results within an hour. Occasionally these tests can be inconclusive, and you must still wait one or two weeks for the final result.


HIV in the United States

 The following map shows the ranges of rates of persons living with a diagnosis of HIV infection at the end of 2011, by state; predominantly, states in the South and the Northeast report the highest rates. In 2011, the overall total rate for persons living with a diagnosis of HIV infection in the United States was 417.5/100,000 population.


AIDS in the United States, by Race/Ethnicity

 Most people receiving an AIDS diagnosis in 2010 or living with an AIDS diagnosis at the end of 2009 were black, white, or Latino, reflecting the majority population groups of the United States.

Race/Ethnicity of Persons Diagnosed with AIDS in 2010
in the 50 States and District of Columbia, by Region of ResidenceHowever, HIV and AIDS strongly affect some of the smaller population groups in the United States, an effect that may not always be noted because of the relatively small number of cases among these groups. For example, by year-end 2009, American Indians/Alaska Natives living in the Northeast had almost the same rate of persons living with an AIDS diagnosis (86.8/100,000 people) as whites in this region (87.6/100,000). 


HIV Among Youth in the US

 About 50,000 people are infected with HIV each year, and 1 in 4 is 13 to 24 years old. Youth make up 7% of the more than 1 million people in the US living with HIV. About 12,000 youth were infected with HIV in 2010. The greatest number of infections occurred among gay and bisexual youth. Nearly half of all new infections among youth occur in African American males.

The risk for HIV for most youth begins when they start having sex or start injecting drugs. HIV causes a serious infection that, without treatment, leads to AIDS and early death. All youth should know how HIV is transmitted and prevented, understand what puts them at risk for HIV, and be tested if they are at risk. About 60% of all youth, with HIV do not know they are infected, are not getting treated, and can unknowingly pass the virus on to others. 


New HIV infections in youth in 2010

  • About 1 in 4 (26%) of all new HIV infections is among youth ages 13 to 24 years. About 4 in 5 of these infections occur in males.
  • Nearly 60% of new infections in youth occur in African Americans, about 20% in Hispanics/Latinos, and about 20% in whites.
  • Over half (54%) of new infections among young gay and bisexual males are in African Americans.
  • About 87% of young males got HIV from male to- male sex, 6% from heterosexual sex, 2% from injection drug use and about 5% from a combination of male-to-male sex and injection drug use.
  • About 86% of young females got HIV through heterosexual sex and 13% from injection drug use.
  • More new infections occurred among young African American males than in any other group of youth by race/ethnicity and sex.

Most youth are not getting tested for HIV

  • About 60% of youth with HIV do not know they are infected and so don’t receive treatment, putting them at risk for sickness and early death. These youth can also unknowingly pass HIV to others.
  • Young men are far more likely than young women to have HIV and are also less likely to get tested.
  • African American youth are more likely to get tested for HIV than youth of other races or ethnicities.
  • Youth who report being at risk for HIV are also more likely to get tested, but still many youth at risk have never been tested.

Many factors put youth at risk

  • The risk for HIV for most youth begins when they start having sex or injecting drugs. (A small number of children are born with HIV.)
  • For both males and females, having sex under the influence of drugs or alcohol can increase risky behaviors that could lead to becoming infected with HIV.
  • The risk for getting HIV is higher in communities where a higher percentage of people already have HIV because partners are more likely to be infected.African Americans have a greater burden of HIV than other racial or ethnic groups in the US so they are at higher risk.
  • Gay and bisexual men are 40 times more likely to have HIV than other men. Research has shown that young gay and bisexual males who have sex with older partners are at a greater risk for HIV infection. This is because an older partner is more likely to have had more sexual partners or other risks, and is more likely to be infected with HIV.
  • Less than half (44%) of gay and bisexual males in high school used condoms the last time they had sex.

What can be done


Youth can:

  • Get the facts about HIV and understand their risk.
  • Get tested for HIV. Contact National AIDS Hotline at (800) 342-2437 (24 hrs/day, 365 days/year). or text your zip code to Knowit (566948) or Click Here for testing locations in your area.
  • Talk with parents, doctors, and other trusted adults about HIV, sexual health, and concerns about depression, drugs or alcohol.
  • Resist pressure to have sex or inject drugs. Do not pressure others to engage in risky behaviors.
  • Sexually active youth can reduce their risk by choosing to stop having sex, limiting their number of sex partners, not having sex with an older person who may be more likely to already have HIV, and using a condom every time. Don’t have sex while using drugs or alcohol.
  • Participate in HIV prevention programs, share HIV prevention information with friends and partners, and support other youth in protecting themselves against HIV.
  • If you have HIV, get support, seek treatment, and stay in care to remain healthy and prevent passing the virus to others.

Parents and families can:

  • Talk with youth about HIV prevention.
  • Ask your doctor about HIV testing and prevention for your youth, and ask your insurer if HIV screening is available without a co-pay, as required by the Affordable Care Act for most health plans.
  • Engage in HIV education programs and support safe environments in schools for all youth.
  • Make sure your community offers testing for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well as treatment for youth needing it.

Health care providers can:

  • Follow current HIV testing and treatment guidelines and test youth at risk for HIV. Sexually active young gay and bisexual men should be tested at least once a year. People in communities with more HIV infections may benefit from being tested more often.
  • Educate parents and youth about sexual development, what puts youth at risk, and how to prevent HIV.
  • Provide HIV prevention services tailored for youth and protect patient confidentiality.

Everyone can:

Get the facts, get tested and get involved, and we can all support programs to prevent HIV among youth.

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