HIV Testing

  • Medical Author:
    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP

    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.

  • Medical Author: Daniel Havlichek, MD
  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

HIV/AIDS Myths and Facts

Quick GuideHIV AIDS Pictures Slideshow: Myths and Facts on Symptoms and Treatments

HIV AIDS Pictures Slideshow: Myths and Facts on Symptoms and Treatments

How long does it take to get results back from an HIV test?

Results from antibody tests that are sent to a laboratory usually take one to three days to return. If the test is positive, results may be delayed while the laboratory does a Western blot to be sure that HIV antibody is present. Western blot tests take only one day to perform, but some laboratories may not run the test every day. Results from rapid tests done in the doctor's office or at other points of care are usually available in 15-20 minutes. If the rapid test is positive, it is still necessary to send blood to a laboratory for a Western blot to be sure the rapid test result is correct. Home tests are mailed to a laboratory, and results return in one to two weeks. RNA testing results usually take a few days to a week, depending on the lab.

Is counseling offered with HIV testing?

Each state establishes requirements for HIV counseling. Most states have supported an "opt out" testing program in which people are recommended to have HIV testing but may opt out if they choose. Such programs should include counseling about HIV, including prevention of infection, the meaning of the HIV test, and the need for appropriate follow-up. Opt-out programs have resulted in earlier diagnosis of many people with HIV.

HIV testing may sometimes be done if a health-care worker or first responder (policeman, fireman, emergency medical technician, etc.) has significant exposure to the blood or body fluid from an identifiable person. In this situation, testing without consent is available in most states. All blood and plasma donors, some prisoners, and some military personnel are tested for HIV.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/23/2016

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