How can I know if I have HIV?

The only way to know if you have HIV is to take an HIV test. Multiple national guidelines recommend routine voluntary HIV screening of all patients aged 18 to 75 years of age as a normal part of medical care. The reason for these recommendations is that nearly one out of five people infected with HIV are not aware that they have the infection.

To do the HIV test, a small sample of blood is taken from your arm. The blood is sent to a lab and tested for HIV. Home testing is available. The sample can be obtained via oral secretions (saliva), or a blood sample from a finger-stick test strip that is then mailed to a laboratory for screening. Positive results must be confirmed by your doctor before a diagnosis of HIV infection can be established.

Some clinics perform HIV tests without ever taking your name (anonymous testing). You must go back to the clinic to get your results. A positive test means you have HIV. A negative test means no signs of HIV were found in your blood.

Before taking an HIV test:

  • Ask the clinic what privacy rules it follows.
  • Ask your health care provider any questions you have about HIV, AIDS, or the HIV test.

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