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Get Tested for HIV

Young couple

The Basics

It's important for everyone to get tested for HIV. It's especially important if you are at high risk of infection. Get tested for HIV if you have:

  • Had unprotected sex (sex without a condom).
  • Had sex with men who have sex with men.
  • Used drugs with needles.
  • Had a sex partner who is HIV-positive.
  • Or if you’ve had a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Many doctors recommend HIV testing for all teens and adults between the ages of 13 and 64. Your doctor may suggest getting tested even if you don’t ask about it.

If you’re at high risk for HIV, you may need to get tested more often—at least once a year.

What Is HIV?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. This is the virus that causes AIDS. There is no cure yet for HIV/AIDS, but there is treatment.

HIV is spread through some of the body's fluids, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. HIV is passed from one person to another by:

  • Having sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) with a person who has HIV
  • Sharing needles with someone who has HIV
  • Breastfeeding, pregnancy, or birth if a mother has HIV
  • Getting transfusions of blood that has HIV, which is rare in the United States

Learn more about HIV/AIDS:

How Do You Test for HIV?

There are different types of HIV tests. The most common test is a blood test. There are also oral (mouth) HIV tests. In an oral test, you put a pad between your cheek and gum for a few minutes. The results from these HIV tests are usually ready between a few days and 2 weeks.

In many places, you can get a rapid HIV test. Results from rapid tests are ready in 20 to 60 minutes.

To learn more about the different types of HIV tests:

Confidential and Anonymous Testing

If you’re worried about giving your name, you can get an anonymous HIV test. This means that you don’t have to give your name. Instead, you get a number when you take the test. When you return to get the test results, you give your number.

If you get tested at a doctor’s office or clinic, you can ask for a confidential test. This means that the test results are shared only with people allowed to see your medical records.

The Benefits

You could have HIV and still feel healthy. The only way to know for sure if you have HIV or not is to get tested.

Live Longer With HIV

If you find out you have HIV, you can take drugs to slow down the virus. HIV medicines are giving people healthier futures and new strength. While there's no cure for HIV, the treatments today allow you to live longer. The sooner you start treatment, the better.

Protect Yourself and Others

If you are HIV-positive, you also can take steps to protect your partner(s) so that you don’t pass the virus on to others. If you are pregnant, or thinking about getting pregnant, you can help prevent passing HIV to your baby. External Link

Even if you don’t think you are at risk for HIV, it still feels good to know for sure. If you are HIV-negative, you can take steps to make sure you stay that way.

Take Action!

Protect yourself and others—get tested for HIV.

Find a Place To Get Tested

Ask your doctor or nurse for an HIV test. Or visit an HIV testing center or health clinic. You also can get tested at a hospital or health department.

Enter your zip code to find a testing center External Link near you or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

Protect Yourself From HIV

The best way to protect yourself from HIV is to not have sex until you are in a relationship with only one person and you have both been tested. Here’s what else you can do to prevent HIV:

  • Use a latex condom External Link with lubricant every time you have sex.
  • Limit your number of sexual partners.
  • Don’t inject drugs or share needles.
  • If you have more than one sexual partner, get tested for HIV regularly.

Talk to Your Partner About Getting Tested

It’s important to take time to talk before having sex. Ask your partner to get tested for HIV and other STDs. Offer to get tested together.

Learn about your risk for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

What do you want to do today?

  • Enter your zip code to find an HIV testing center External Link near you.
  • Read stories External Link from people affected by HIV/AIDS.
  • Talk to your partner about getting tested for HIV.
  • National Health Information Center

    P.O. Box 1133, Washington, DC 20013-1133