Looking for an HIV Test? Go to our Services page.
It's simple enough: a drop of blood from your finger or a quick mouth swab, and minutes later you know your HIV status. Knowing your status is critical to your health and the well-being of our entire community.
If you don't know that you are HIV-positive, you could be getting sicker and risking the health of your partners. Finding out you're positive means you can start getting the treatment you need right away to improve your health.
Still have questions? We've got answers...
There's a period of time after a person is infected during which they won't test positive. This is called the “hiv window period,” and can be from 9 days to 3-6 months, depending on the person's body and on the HIV-test that's used. During that time, you can test HIV negative even though you're HIV infected.Learn more about the window periods for different types of tests. Learn more about the testing window period.
You can still catch HIV from someone who is in the window period. If you suspect that you've been exposed recently, make that very clear to the HIV test counselor.
Keep in mind that there is a "window period" between when you get infected and when a test will show that you are positive (see the question above. If you've had exposure to HIV within that window period, you might be positive.
The most important thing to do if you test negative is to stay negative. Ways to stay negative:
Get an HIV test as soon as possible, and tell the testing counselor why you think you are positive.
With the availability of treatments today, you can lead a long and healthy life as an HIV-positive person. Learn more about current HIV treatment.
If you’ve tested positive :
1. See a doctor, even if you don’t feel sick. If possible, see a health care provider who has experience treating HIV. Consulting someone about your treatment options is the first step towards staying healthy. The website AIDS.gov has a searchable map of service providers by location.
2. Find a support system. The emotional and physical challenges ahead can be difficult, and having people around to help is important. In San Francisco, we offer a variety of counseling and support groups for HIV-positive people, including a weekend-long session for those newly dealing with a diagnosis, called PLUS.
3. Don't pass it on. Tell your sexual partner/s about your HIV status and make sure you reduce the possibility of giving them the virus by practicing safer sex, including using latex condoms or dental dams each and every time you have oral or anal sex.
• To get into care and lower your risk of infecting anyone else, if you find out you have HIV
• To better protect yourself and your partner
• To take care of yourself and your community
Everyone between ages 13 and 64, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
We recommend that all men who have sex with men get tested for HIV every 6 months; more often for those who have higher-risk activities.
Many doctors do not offer testing for HIV (or other STDs) unless you ask. Ask your doctor if they include STD tests in your regular blood tests.
There are several different types of HIV tests. Most San Francisco testing sites offer what are called 'rapid HIV tests'. These tests use a small sample of blood, either from a finger-stick or a blood draw from your inner arm, to test for HIV antibodies. AIDS.gov describes the different available test types on their site.
Most HIV tests check for antibodies that the body produces once infected with HIV. Antibodies are proteins that the immune system makes to fight off all different kinds of infections, including HIV. If an HIV test detects HIV antibodies, a person is infected with HIV. If antibodies are not present, a person is likely not HIV infected.
We offer free, confidential HIV testing at a number of locations in San Francisco.
The cost of HIV testing varies at other testing locations. There are community clinics that offer free HIV tests, or request a sliding scale payment. Also, the cost of an HIV test may be covered by health insurance, if you have it. Call ahead to your doctor or local clinic to find out how much they charge for HIV tests, or to your health insurance provider to see if the test is covered.
Your HIV test results are confidential, just like other health information. If you do the test with your regular healthcare provider (your doctor), the results will be included in your medical record. If you test positive for HIV, your result 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 HIV-related information outside the health department.
Also, if you do test positive, it is very important for you to work closely with your doctor or nurse practitioner to get the care and treatment you need.
If you live in San Francisco, you may get tested at one of our many locations, confidentially and for free.
If you have a regular doctor or clinic, they can arrange a test for you.
To find other testing sites, anywhere in the U.S., go to http://locator.AIDS.gov.
News and commentary on HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and policy.