How do I get tested for HIV?
Testing for HIV is fast, easy, and painless. While a blood test performed in a laboratory is the gold standard, there are other HIV testing methods out there, so let’s break them down.
Blood test conducted in a laboratory.
The most reliable HIV test involves your doctor or healthcare provider drawing a sample of blood and sending it to a lab for testing. This type of testing can reliably detect HIV as soon as two weeks after a person becomes infected. If an initial test is positive, the laboratory will usually perform additional testing to confirm the results. You can expect results in as little as one day or up to one week. Testing for other infections, such as syphilis and Hep C, may be performed with the same blood sample.
Rapid HIV test.
Some doctors and clinics may perform in-office testing, which uses blood from a fingerstick or oral fluid to test for HIV. These tests are less accurate than tests performed in a laboratory, especially for detecting recent infection. Rapid tests can reliably detect HIV approximately a month after infection, although the period for detection with an oral fluid sample may be longer. Even if you get a positive result from a rapid HIV test, a healthcare professional must verify the results through a standard blood test conducted in a laboratory.
Self-collection and self-test.
An HIV self-collection kit requires you to collect a sample of blood or oral fluid and send it back to a lab. The accuracy of these tests depends on a number of factors, including the type of sample and the test performed by the laboratory. There is only one approved self-test kit on the market that you do entirely yourself (no lab involved), yet it cannot detect a recent HIV infection. The bottom line is that HIV self-collection kits may not be accurate, and any results you get from self-testing should be confirmed with a blood test conducted in a laboratory.
Ready to get tested?
The best place to get an HIV test is at your doctor’s office or at a test site supported by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. While you’re there, ask about getting tested for STDs and hepatitis C.