HIV testing

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play it safe

You don't have any symptoms. You haven't been involved with anyone who has HIV or AIDS. You feel healthy. So why take the HIV antibody test?

Because HIV can be tricky. Someone can be infected with HIV without even knowing it. Unfortunately, people who don't know that they're infected can still spread the virus. That's why it's important to play it safe by knowing your status and practicing safer sex.

Who should get tested

HIV testing is recommended for all sexually active teens beginning at age 13 and for adults. Find confidential testing services in your area.

Know your status

You may feel nervous about taking the test, but the HIV antibody test will let you know if you have antibodies to the HIV virus. (Antibodies are substances your body makes to protect you against a disease.)

Once you know your status, you can make the best choices for your health — and your partner's health.

If you test negative, you can take steps to protect yourself and stay free of HIV, including practicing safer sex and taking PrEP, an HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis.

If you test positive, you should get HIV medical care right away, and you can protect your partners. If you are a KP member, please let your primary care physician know so that he or she can immediately refer you to the HIV specialist at your medical center.

If you test negative

A negative result is actually a good result. It means that your body didn't have to make any antibodies to HIV at this time.

Two men talkingHowever, you can test negative and still be infected with HIV because it can take up to 3 months or longer for your immune system to make enough HIV antibodies to show up on a test. During this "window period," you can pass the virus to other people, even though you tested negative.

To be sure of your negative result, get tested again 3 to 6 months after the last possible time you could have been exposed to HIV.

Practice safer sex and continue using latex condoms or dental dams (for oral sex), so you can avoid spreading the virus and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) to others and exposing yourself again. Also, think about HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Ask your primary care physician about this option.

If you test positive

If your result is positive, you have developed antibodies to HIV, and you are infected. This means that you can pass the virus to other people.

  • Your doctor or HIV test counselor will make sure that you get an appointment to go over your treatment options with HIV specialists. Early treatment is very important to your overall health. There's no cure for HIV, but there are drug treatments that slow the progress of the disease.
  • Pregnant? Think you might be pregnant? Talk to your doctor right away, because there are drug treatments that can greatly lessen the chance of you passing the virus to your child.
  • Protect your sexual partners from HIV. Practicing safer sex and not sharing needles can reduce your risk of passing the virus to others or being reinfected with a more harmful, medication-resistant strain of HIV.

Kaiser Permanente takes a comprehensive approach to HIV/AIDS care (video)Kaiser Permanente is not responsible for the content or policies of external Internet sites, or mobile apps.. We treat the whole you, and we have many other resources that can help people with HIV stay as healthy as possible.

Reviewed by: Michael A. Horberg, MD, October 2018

HIV care in your area

HIV testing saves lives

One-third of the people newly infected with HIV are under age 30Kaiser Permanente is not responsible for the content or policies of external Internet sites..  HIV expert Michael Horberg, MD, talks about why everyone should be tested.