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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Getting tested for HIV

Real stories from real teens who get tested

group of teens

Anonymous blood test

I went to my local Public Health clinic to get tested for HIV/AIDS, and I must admit I was somewhat nervous, even knowing before hand that there was no chance I could have HIV. The procedure was really simple. First you get a clipboard with a few forms to fill out - then simply wait till your name is called. Once you are called, you and a nurse proceed to a private room and go over the survey. When finished, the nurse draws one vial of blood out of you and gives you a card with an ID#. It takes about a week for them to gather up all the final results. Going to get tested wasn’t a bad experience at all. I thought that I would have been more embarrassed, but because of the comfortable environment I felt totally fine. I had a fun time getting tested and receiving free condoms.

Confidential blood test

Taking the HIV test is nerve racking, not the actual blood drawing part but the fact that you are at risk for a deadly, incurable disease. I also felt kind of embarrassed to be seen in a STD/HIV clinic. I was very scared, not that I was going to get my blood drawn, but that first, I might have HIV, and second, of the nurse. I am horrified of strangers, and a stranger with a needle is not a very settling thought. But she is a certified nurse so that made it a little easier to do. They also do not let people go in the room with you. You have to go alone for privacy reasons. They ask you a lot of questions.

When you go in you sign in, and they give you a bunch of forms to fill out. They give you a long questionnaire on your sexual and drug history. Then when they call your number you go back into an office, and go over your info and questionnaire with you to determine your risk factor. Then if you are going to call and get your test results, they go over the phone conversation with you. Then they take your blood.

I am allergic to latex so the doctor had to go all around to find non-latex gloves and surgical tape (to use in place of a band aid). She had to put the arm thing over my shirt. Then they draw your blood, and when you’re done they give you a card with your “unique code” on it and show you back to the waiting room. When you call for your results they ask you for your name and then birth date, then what color your card is, then what your unique code is, and then they give you your results. When I called in and got my results, I was so relieved that I didn’t have HIV. I am glad I got the test.

Anonymous blood test

I went to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle to get tested for HIV. I walked inside and found the STD Clinic. At first I felt like didn’t want to be seen in an STD clinic, but it was too late to back down. I walked up to the receptionist and got my paper work. I wanted to keep it anonymous, so I didn’t put my name on the papers. I was asked questions such as “Have you ever had sex? When was the last time you drank alcohol, did drugs, etc.? Have you ever shared needles?” General questions. When the nurse called me back, we went over my survey. Then we made up my fake name and a code for myself. The nurse drew my blood and we were done. When I called in to get my results one week later, she explained that I would have to tell them my “name” and code. The test was free of charge, and I just had to walk in to get it.

Can I get tested?

Free testing for HIV and other STDs is often available at publicly-funded health clinics for teens. Other community health centers may provide these tests with fees based on income level. Prices at a private health care facility vary. If you have health insurance, the cost of the test(s) may be covered by your insurance, but check with your insurer first.

Teens under 14 DO NOT have to have parental consent if they are being tested at a Public Health clinic in Washington State. Rules at other clinics vary; call ahead if this is a concern for you.

Public Health Clinics in King County where teens can get tested for HIV.

Different kinds of tests

a coupleStandard HIV blood test
This is one of the most common tests used for HIV today. A blood sample is drawn by a health care provider and results are generally available within a few days to two weeks.

Oral test
This is an alternative to blood tests. It tests by swabbing the inside of the mouth to collect a tissue sample. Results are available within two weeks to a month. This test is not available at all testing sites.

Home test
The home test uses blood to test, by pricking your finger with a special device, placing drops of blood on a specially treated card, and then mailing a card to be tested at a licensed laboratory. Testers are given an identification number to use when phoning for the test results, and may receive phone counseling.

Urine test
A urine test is another alternative to blood tests. The person getting tested provides a urine sample to a health care provider. The sample is screened in a laboratory and results are generally available within a few days to two weeks.  This test is not available at all testing sites.

What is better: confidential or anonymous testing?

When getting tested for HIV, you can choose to have an anonymous test or a confidential test.

With an anonymous HIV test, your name is not linked to your test results; you are assigned a number matched to your results.

Benefits of anonymous testing:

  • If you test HIV positive your results can’t be reported to public health staff at this time.
  • There is no official record of your being tested for HIV; thus, partners, insurance carriers, employers, landlords, the government, and others cannot ever obtain this information.

Drawbacks of anonymous testing:

  • Without your name and phone number, the clinic will not be able to contact you. Thus, you might fail to learn of test results, about new treatment or research opportunities, and the clinic would not be able to remind you to return for visits.
  • If you are given the same unique code name by another health care provider your HIV testing results will be on the same file.

With confidential testing, your name is recorded along with your test results, which are provided to the state health department for the purpose of tracking the spread of the epidemic. These results may be made available to medical personnel.

Benefits of confidential testing:

  • This option allows the clinic to contact you, if necessary. This could ensure that you 1) get important lab test results, 2) are notified about new tests, treatments, research, and other opportunities.
  • If you need your name to be on your test result (e.g., for travel or court-ordered testing), this is the only option.

Drawbacks of confidential testing:

  • Although there has never been a case of medical professionals forced to release medical information to others without patient permission, there is a slight chance that your results could be forced to be released in a legal proceeding, potentially causing you harm.

Disclosure of Positive Test Results

  • It is important to know that if you do test HIV positive, state regulations require that your results are reported to public health staff. However, the names of people with HIV are kept only for 90 days; then they are converted to codes and the names are shredded. Your HIV status is not released to your insurance company, employers, or anyone else.