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Where can I get tested for HIV infection?

Many places provide testing for HIV infection. It is important to seek testing at a location that also provides counseling about HIV and AIDS. Common locations include local health departments, private physicians, hospitals, and test sites specifically set up for HIV testing.

In addition to traditional testing procedures, there are other options. For those who prefer not to have blood drawn, many sites now offer oral fluids testing, which involves testing of a sample of fluid taken from inside the mouth with a cotton swab. The OraSure Test is currently only available through a health care provider or clinic. Some clinics may also offer urine testing as an alternative to blood tests.

There is also testing which can be performed anonymously in the privacy of your own home. There are many home tests advertised through the internet, but only the Home Access Test has been approved by the FDA. The Home Access test kit can be found at most local pharmacies. The testing procedure involves pricking your finger with a special device, placing a drop of blood on a specially treated card, then mailing the card in for testing. You are given an identification number to use when you phone in for the test results-- 3 days or 2 weeks later, depending on the test kit purchased.

The CDC National AIDS Hotline can answer questions about testing and can refer you to testing sites in your area. The hotline numbers are 1-800-342-2437 (English), 1-800-344-7432, (Spanish), or 1-800-243-7889 (TTY).
(Source: Centers for Disease Control - CDC)

What is the difference between an Anonymous and a Confidential Test?

Anonymous and Confidential use the same testing method. The only difference is one does not have your name attached to the results.

Anonymous antibody testing is available at Anonymous Test Sites in most California counties. Anonymous testing means that absolutely no one has access to your test results since your name is never recorded at the test site.

Confidential antibody testing means that you and the health care provider know your results, which may be recorded in your medical file.
(Source: San Francisco AIDS Foundation)

Which test should I have done: Anonymous or Confidential?

It is recommended that one have an anonymous test. The results will only be known to you and will not appear on any records.

Some reasons that one would need a confidential test would be: a result is required for immigration purposes or for some international travel visas; a pregnant woman who is clearly at risk might choose to be tested through her doctor, rather than anonymously, since the result is of key importance to the course of her medical care. (Source: San Francisco AIDS Foundation)

I have heard there are many different types of HIV tests. How do I know which one I should take?

The combination of an Eliza/Western Blot HIV Antibody Test is the accepted testing method for HIV infection. This combination test is looking for the antibodies that develop to fight the HIV virus. There are two ways to conduct this test. Either through a blood draw or through the " Orasure" method (a sample of oral mucus obtained with a specially treated cotton pad that is placed between the cheek and lower gum for two minutes). Both forms, by blood draw or orally, have the same accuracy with their results.

Other tests that you will hear about are Viral Load tests. These tests are used by physicians to monitor their patients who have already tested positive for HIV antibodies. Viral Load tests are very costly and should not be used to determine if one is HIV positive.
(Source: San Francisco AIDS Foundation)

What do test results mean?

A positive result means:

* You are HIV-positive (carrying the virus that causes AIDS).
* You can infect others and should try to implement precautions to prevent doing so.

A negative result means:

* No antibodies were found in your blood at this time.

A negative result does NOT mean:

* You are not infected with HIV (if you are still in the window period).
* You are immune to AIDS.
* You have a resistance to infection.
* You will never get AIDS.

(Source: San Francisco AIDS Foundation)

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