Testing Facts

How do they do an HIV test?
They take a small sample of your blood and check for antibodies to HIV. If they do not find the antibodies, then the test is considered to be negative and they do not do any more tests. If they do find antibodies, they do special tests to make sure that the virus is really present. The tests for HIV are very good.

What does it mean to be HIV positive?

If you are infected with HIV, you are said to be “HIV positive.” If you are not infected, you are “HIV negative.” Being HIV positive does not mean you have AIDS, but all individuals with HIV will eventually develop AIDS.

What are false positives and false negative?

False positives are when the tests say that you have the virus when you really don’t. These are extremely rare with the current tests.
False negatives are when the tests say that do not have the virus when you really do. When an individual is tested at the beginning and the end of a six-month period during which they did not engage in risky behaviors, false negatives are also extremely rare.

So, if you get an HIV test and it is negative, do you definitely not have HIV?

No. It can take up to 3 months for the HIV antibodies to build up to detectable levels following infection. The only way you can be certain that you do not have HIV is to get an HIV test, go six months without engaging in risky behaviors, and then get another test.

What are the advantages of getting tested?

If the test is negative, you can put your mind to rest and save yourself from unnecessary stress and worry.
If the test is positive, your doctor can help you stay as healthy as possible, you can take precautions to protect other people, and you can let past sexual partners know that they are at risk.

Where can you get an HIV test?

The Carrboro Community Health Clinic, SHAC, and the Orange County Health Department in Chapel Hill and Hillsborough all provide free HIV testing. Your family doctor can also give you an HIV test. All of these sources provide confidential testing. Your doctor is a good person with whom to discuss HIV. He/she will not discuss testing issues with your family if you don’t want him/her to.