What Kinds of HIV Tests Are Available?
Currently, there are several ways to test for HIV. There are blood and oral swab HIV tests. There are also urine tests for HIV, but they are rarely used.
Most blood tests involve going to a clinic, having blood drawn, and then going back to the clinic about a week later for the results.
Many health care providers now offer rapid HIV testing. A rapid test can use an oral swab or blood from a vein or finger prick. The results take as little as 20 minutes. However, rapid test results that show a person has HIV need to be confirmed with a follow-up test.
You can also test for HIV at home using either a blood or oral swab test.
Anonymous vs. Confidential Testing
In most states you can find clinics that offer "anonymous" or "confidential" HIV tests. It may be important to you to know the difference between those two terms when you choose a clinic for the test.
- "Confidential" testing means that your name and other identifying information is attached to your test results. The results go in your medical record and may be shared with your insurance company. Otherwise, the results are kept private, just as most medical records are.
- "Anonymous" testing means that your name is never used — just an ID number. That number is attached to your test results. You get your results by matching the number. Usually the results aren't written down — they are just told to you either over the phone or in person. With anonymous testing, your test results are not part of your medical record.
"Anonymous" testing is not available in some states, so when you schedule an appointment, ask if it is available in your state.
HIV Testing for Pregnant Women
The government recommends that all pregnant women be tested for HIV, as part of their normal prenatal care. If a woman has HIV while pregnant, she can work with her health care provider to help reduce the risk that her baby will have HIV, too. With treatment, less than 2 out of 100 babies born to women who have HIV will be infected. Without treatment, about 25 out of 100 babies will be infected.