Should You Get Tested for HIV?

The CDC recommends HIV testing as part of routine health care for everyone between the ages of 13 and 64. Testing should occur more frequently if someone has had multiple sex partners or is unsure about their partner’s sexual history. Gay and bisexual men who are sexually active may benefit from testing every 3 to 6 months.

If you’ve had a negative HIV test more than a year ago and answer yes to certain questions (like having multiple partners since your last test, injecting drugs and sharing needles, or exchanging sex for drugs or money), you should get tested again. Pregnant women should also receive HIV testing as part of prenatal care.

Additionally, if you’ve been sexually assaulted or had a high-risk exposure to HIV, consider post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and getting an HIV antigen test to detect infection sooner. PEP can help prevent HIV infection if started within 3 days after potential exposure.

Where Can You Get Tested for HIV?

You can easily locate an HIV testing site nearby by using’s HIV services locator tool. Alternatively, you can call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636) or visit to find a testing site near you.

What Do Your HIV Test Results Mean?

After taking an HIV test, understanding whether your result is positive or negative is important. If you were tested at a healthcare facility or community center, the healthcare provider or counselor will explain the result and discuss the next steps. For those who used a rapid HIV self-test at home or in a private setting, the package instructions will provide this information, along with contact details for further assistance.


Getting tested for HIV is crucial because about 1 in 8 people in the United States who have HIV are unaware of their status. Knowing your HIV status empowers you to take steps for your health and the well-being of your partners:

– If you test positive, starting HIV treatment as soon as possible can help you live a long and healthy life. Taking HIV medicine as prescribed also prevents transmission to HIV-negative partners through sex if you achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load.
– If you test negative, you have access to various prevention tools, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), to reduce your risk of acquiring HIV.
– Pregnant individuals should undergo HIV testing to initiate treatment if positive. With proper HIV medicine use during pregnancy and after birth, the risk of transmitting HIV to the baby can be significantly reduced.

Early testing is crucial as some individuals may have HIV for years without knowing, risking their health and transmission to others. That’s why CDC recommends more frequent HIV testing for those at risk.

TasP is highly effective when individuals with HIV adhere to their medication regimen and receive regular follow-up care, including routine viral load monitoring to ensure their viral load remains undetectable.

HIV self-testing allows individuals to perform an HIV test and receive the results in a private setting, such as their home. There are two types of HIV self-tests:

1. Rapid Self-Test: This test is conducted entirely at home or in a private location and provides results within about 20 minutes. You can purchase a rapid self-test kit, typically an oral fluid test, from pharmacies or online stores.

2. Mail-In Self-Test: This test involves a specimen collection kit that includes supplies for collecting dried blood from a fingerstick at home. The collected sample is then sent to a lab for testing, and the results are provided by a healthcare provider. Mail-in self-tests can be ordered online or through healthcare providers.

You may find reduced-cost or free rapid self-tests available through local health departments or organizations. It’s essential to check with your insurance provider and healthcare provider regarding coverage for directly purchased self-tests, as they may not always be reimbursed.

State laws regarding self-testing can vary, affecting availability. For additional testing options or information on eligibility, contact your healthcare provider or local health department.

It’s crucial for everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 to get tested for HIV as part of their regular healthcare routine, regardless of their perceived risk factors. This recommendation extends to individuals in monogamous relationships as well. Knowing your HIV status is essential for your overall health and well-being, as well as for preventing the spread of HIV to partners.

You have a variety of options for getting an HIV test:

– Visit your healthcare provider or local health clinic.
– Look into STD or sexual health clinics.
– Check with your health department or family planning clinics.
– Veterans can visit VA medical centers.
– Substance abuse programs may offer testing.
– Some pharmacies provide HIV testing services.
– Community-based organizations and mobile testing vans often offer testing at events or on-site.
Each of these places can also provide guidance on HIV care, treatment, or prevention depending on your test results.

Under the Affordable Care Act, HIV screening is typically covered by health insurance without a co-pay, including Medicaid in most cases. If you don’t have insurance, some testing sites offer free tests or tests on a sliding fee scale based on income. You can find free testing resources using CDC’s Get Tested tool.

HIV self-testing allows individuals to take an HIV test and learn their results in the privacy of their own home or another private location. There are two main types of HIV self-tests:

1. Rapid Self-Test: This test is performed entirely at home or in a private setting and provides results within about 20 minutes. You can purchase a rapid self-test kit from pharmacies or online retailers. Currently, the only FDA-approved HIV self-test in the US is an oral fluid test.

2. Mail-In Self-Test: This test involves a specimen collection kit with supplies for collecting dried blood from a fingerstick at home. The collected sample is then sent to a lab for testing, and the results are provided by a healthcare provider. Mail-in self-tests can be ordered from various online sources or through your healthcare provider.

It’s advisable to check with your local health department or organizations near you to see if rapid self-tests are available at reduced costs or for free. Note that directly purchased self-tests may not be covered by private health insurance or Medicaid, so it’s essential to inquire with your insurance provider and healthcare provider regarding reimbursement options for self-purchased tests. Keep in mind that state laws related to self-testing may vary, so it’s recommended to consult your healthcare provider for additional testing options.

HIV testing can be done in various settings, including health care facilities, labs, and community-based organizations. Here’s what to expect depending on where you get tested:

1. Health Care Setting or Lab:
– A sample of your blood or oral fluid will be taken by a healthcare provider or lab technician.
– Rapid tests may provide results quickly, while tests sent to a lab can take several days for results.
– If negative and no recent exposure, you can be confident you don’t have HIV and may discuss preventive measures like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
– Positive rapid test results require a confirmatory blood sample.
– If confirmed positive, further tests are conducted, and treatment (antiretroviral therapy) may start immediately.

2. Community-Based Setting:
– Rapid HIV tests are common in such settings.
– Negative results are reliable if no recent exposure.
– Positive results need follow-up testing at a healthcare provider or clinic.

3. HIV Self-Testing:
– Available for private testing at home.
– Rapid self-tests provide results in about 20 minutes and can be bought at pharmacies or online.
– Mail-in self-tests involve sending a dried blood sample to a lab for testing.
– Check local health departments or HIV service organizations for reduced-cost or free rapid self-tests.
– Self-tests and mail-in tests may be covered by insurance; check with your provider.

Ultimately, HIV testing is crucial for early detection and treatment, promoting individual health and preventing transmission.

If your HIV test shows a negative result, it might not definitively mean you’re HIV-negative due to the window period, which varies among individuals and test types. Consult your healthcare provider or test package for the window period information. It’s crucial to retest after the window period for certainty.

After confirming a negative result and ensuring no recent exposure during the window period, consider HIV prevention options. These include PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) medication, consistent condom use during sex, and safe injection practices if you inject drugs. These steps significantly reduce HIV transmission risks.

Your HIV test result only reflects your own HIV status. It doesn’t indicate whether your partner has HIV. HIV transmission risk varies based on specific behaviors like sharing needles or having unprotected sex. It’s crucial to communicate openly with your partners about HIV status, consider getting tested together, and take preventive measures to stay healthy.

If you receive a positive HIV test result, it’s crucial to confirm it with follow-up testing conducted in a healthcare setting. This confirmation step ensures accuracy and guides the next steps, such as starting HIV treatment promptly. HIV treatment, known as antiretroviral therapy (ART), is recommended for all individuals with HIV, as it helps control the virus and can lower the viral load to undetectable levels. Achieving and maintaining an undetectable viral load not only benefits your health but also prevents HIV transmission to HIV-negative partners during sex. If you encounter challenges with accessing HIV treatment due to insurance or financial issues, various resources are available to help you receive the necessary care. Your HIV care team can assist you in connecting with these resources to ensure you receive comprehensive care.

Anonymous HIV testing keeps your test results private and separate from your medical records, ensuring that only you know the result. You’ll receive a unique identifier to access your results. On the other hand, confidential testing includes your HIV test result in your medical records, with your name and personal information attached. However, strict privacy laws protect your results, and they are only shared with your permission. In cases of a positive result, your name and result are reported to health authorities for statistical purposes, but personal information is removed before sharing with organizations like the CDC.