The idea of getting tested for HIV may seem scary to some people, but the thing is, HIV testing is part of being responsible and taking care of your health. HIV tests are quick and easy. And if you do have HIV, it’s better to know as soon as possible so you can start treatment.
What kind of HIV tests are there?
There are a few different kinds of HIV tests out there. Some are fast, so you get your results at the same visit as taking the test. These are called Rapid HIV tests. Other tests take longer because they need to be sent out to a lab, so you'll get your results in a few days to a couple weeks.
Rapid HIV Tests
This test is done with a finger prick to get a small amount of blood which gets tested right away. These results can take anywhere from a minute to 20 minutes depending on the test. Either way, you'll know your results before you leave the health center.
Traditional HIV Tests
A traditional HIV test is done with a blood sample or cheek swab. The sample is sent off to a lab for testing, so this type of test takes a little longer — anywhere from a couple days to a week or more. The benefit is that it's slightly more accurate, and sometimes costs less than a rapid test.
Your HIV Test Results
No matter which test you choose, you'll be able to talk with someone and ask questions about your results. If your HIV test shows that you have HIV, you'll need to also get a follow-up test to make sure the results are correct.
In Pennsylvania, HIV test results are confidential. This means the results are not anonymous, so your name is on the test, and the results go in your medical records. Your doctors and insurance company may also see the results. If you test positive, your results are also sent to the local health department so they know the rates of HIV in your area. But your results are protected by privacy laws, so nobody else can see them without your permission.
Learn more about HIV testing, treatment, and living with HIV here.