HIV Testing And Counseling

Where To Go For Tests And Advice

Deciding where to go for counseling and testing depends on the area where you live. There are different counseling and testing places from which to choose. These options include:

  • Publicly funded HIV testing centers
  • Community health clinics
  • Sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinics
  • Family planning clinics
  • Hospital clinics
  • Drug treatment facilities
  • TB clinics
  • A doctor’s office

If a person has his or her own healthcare provider, he or she may feel more comfortable with the staff who will counsel and offer testing. If the center can provide immune system monitoring and medical care to people infected with HIV, it might speed up the beginning of medical treatment.

Some counseling and testing centers offer special features. For instance, drug users can receive counseling, testing, and help for addiction at a drug treatment facility.

Need To Know:

Keeping The Results Confidential

At some centers, such as doctor’s offices or clinics, information about the test result may become part of a patient’s medical record and may be seen by healthcare workers, insurers, or employers. The insurance company may know the patient’s HIV status if he or she makes a claim for health insurance benefits or applies for life insurance or disability insurance.

Ask the testing counselor how they will protect the test results. Most counseling and testing centers follow one of two policies:

  • Confidential testing. The confidential testing site records the patient’s name with the test result. They will keep the record secret from everybody except medical personnel, or in some states, the state health department. A patient should ask who will know the result and how it will be stored. If an HIV antibody test is done confidentially the patient can sign a release form to have the test result sent to the doctor.
  • Anonymous testing (not available in all states). No one asks the patient’s name. The patient is the only one who can tell anyone else the result. To find out more, ask the local health department, doctor, or the CDC National AIDS Hotline (1-800-342-AIDS) about the location of facilities nearby.

Some Things Not To Do

Do not go to a hospital emergency room to be counseled and tested. People should go to an emergency room only if they have a health problem that demands urgent attention.

Do not give blood at a blood donation center as a way to get tested for HIV antibodies. Blood donation centers are not HIV-antibody counseling and testing centers and should not be used as such.

After Taking The Test

The waiting period between taking the test and learning the results can produce anxiety and tension. Some people decide during this time that they do not want to know their test result and never return to receive it. It is very important that everyone who is tested finishes the process and finds out the test result in spite of their anxiety.

It is also important that people waiting for results act as if they were infected and could transmit the virus. In other words:

  • Do not have unprotected sex
  • Do not have sex at all
  • Do not share needles
  • Do not share razor blades or toothbrushes
  • Do not donate blood or organs

Here is what to expect after the test result comes in:

  • The counselor should inform you of the result and – regardless of whether it is positive or negative – how to protect your health and the health of others. He or she will review methods to prevent the spread of HIV.
  • If the result is negative, the counselor may discuss retesting if, during the six months before the test, you engaged in any behaviors that might have infected you. Infection may be present but the body may not yet have produced enough antibodies for the test to detect. Since it takes time for the body to develop antibodies, you may need to be retested.
  • If the test is positive, the counselor will tell you what this means. Any questions you have should be answered and the counselor will refer you for follow-up health care, support services, or further counseling. The counselor will also discuss telling sex partner(s) and/or drug-using partner(s).

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