be>AIDS: Get Tested

WHO SHOULD GET TESTED FOR HIV?

Short answer: everyone. At least every one between the ages of 13 and 64, according to the CDC. For higher risk groups - like gay men - more frequent testing, at least once a year if not more often, is recommended. Remember, though, you've got to ask for the test - it's not automatic, even if a health care provider draws blood.

HOW DOES AN HIV TEST WORK?

Most HIV tests check for antibodies that the body produces once infected with HIV. Antibodies are proteins that the immune system produces to fight off all different kinds of infections, including HIV. If an HIV test detects HIV antibodies, a person is infected with HIV.

WHAT IF I TEST POSITIVE FOR HIV?

First of all, don't panic. With the availability of treatments today, people with HIV are able to live long and healthy lives. The most important thing to do after you test positive is to connect with services and support ASAP.

Don't put off seeing a doctor who has experience treating HIV - the longer you wait, the greater your chance of developing avoidable health problems. It's also a good idea to find a support system of counselors and support groups to help you face the emotional difficulties of living with HIV. These support groups can also help make telling your sexual partners about your HIV status easier, by letting you know that you're not alone.

WHO HAS ACCESS TO MY TEST RESULTS?

HIV test results are always confidential. The results will be included in your medical record, and will also be shared with your state's health department for purposes of monitoring trends in the HIV epidemic. Strict rules prevent your health department from disclosing identifying HIV-related information outside the health department.

If it's your preference, you can get tested anonymously, where your name is not linked to your test results, but not every state offers this option. Home HIV finger prick tests, which you can purchase in a drug store or online, are also anonymous.