What if my HIV test comes out positive?
Knowing your status – whether HIV positive or negative – is the first step towards a longer and healthier life.
You may wonder, “do I need to get tested?” The answer is yes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once and once a quarter if you are engaging in activities that may put you at high risk for HIV. and since you can’t rely on symptoms to know if you have HIV, the only way to know is to get tested. Testing is not a scary thing – and we are here to help regardless of test results! Click here to schedule an appointment.
National HIV Testing Day was June 27 and if you were tested and are unsure of how to interpret your results, keep reading for the following steps:
My HIV test is positive
If your test is positive, a follow-up test might be required. If the follow-up test is also positive, it means you have the HIV virus in your body.
Testing can determine your viral load or how much of the virus is in your body.
What can I do next?
- See your doctor immediately: Talk to them about antiretroviral therapy (ART), which can help you stay healthy while lowering the chances of transmission, protecting your health and your partner.
- Learn what it means to be HIV+: Research HIV care, prevention, and what it means to you. Knowledge about your health and body can empower you to take active control of your care. There is stigma surrounding HIV, help to debunk HIV myths.
- Seek HIV support: Chat with other people who are HIV positive. There are online sites and resources: POZ Personals, Positive Singles, HIV People Meet, POZ Community Forums, and HIV/AIDS Therapy Tribe.
- Think about sharing your status: Once you’re ready, talk to sexual partner(s), family, friends, or whoever may be able to support you and whoever may be at risk themselves. In Pennsylvania, the law doesn’t require notifying your partner if you’re HIV positive but sharing your status is vital in reducing the stigma surrounding HIV.
- Protect others from getting HIV: Get HIV care, become undetectable, maintain an undetectable viral load, wear condoms, and encourage your sexual partners to take PrEP.
Remember: You can’t transmit HIV through mosquitoes, saliva, tears, sweat, hugging, shaking hands, through the air, or any sexual activity that doesn’t involve the exchange of bodily fluids.
- Keep up with your health: Take your medicine as prescribed – if left untreated, HIV can lead to AIDS and other illnesses, such as Opportunistic Infections like pneumonia or tuberculosis.
If I’m HIV+, does that mean I have AIDS?
Short answer: NO!
Being HIV+ does not mean you have AIDS as AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV. This means not everyone who has HIV is diagnosed with AIDS, but everyone with AIDS does have an HIV diagnosis.
Get treatment as soon as you learn you are HIV+. It can keep you from developing AIDS and greatly lengthen life expectancy.
My HIV test is negative
If your test is negative, it doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods just yet – you may still be in the window period, which is the time between when you may have been exposed and are getting tested.
An HIV nucleic acid test can usually detect HIV about 10 to 33 days after exposure.
So, if you get tested again after this period (and have not had any additional exposure to HIV) you are HIV negative if the results come back negative.
If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV in the last 72 hours, talk to a health care provider, an emergency room doctor, or an urgent care provider about post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) right away.
How do I protect myself from HIV?
- Use condoms when you have vaginal, oral and anal sex
- Reduce the number of sex partners
- Get tested for HIV and STIs regularly and encourage your partner to do the same
- Take PrEP to prevent HIV during sex
- Take PEP within 72 hours to prevent HIV after a potential exposure