Testing and counseling
There are several types of HIV antibody tests used today. All are highly accurate at detecting HIV antibodies, specific proteins made in response to an HIV infection. After infection with HIV, however, it can take up to 3 months for HIV antibodies to develop.
Testing and counseling services
Public Health - Seattle & King County offers HIV antibody testing and counseling to all people at risk for infection. All test results are confidential; anonymous testing is also available. HIV antibody testing is also available at a variety of other sites, and HIV home test kits are available in local pharmacies. For risk assessment and referral to testing sites, see resources for testing.
- A negative HIV antibody test result means that a person does not have detectable HIV antibodies at the time of the test. Since it can take up to 3 months after HIV infection for antibodies to develop, a negative test result is reliable only if the person has not had any sexual or needle-sharing risk behavior during the 3 months prior to testing. Some people with recent risk behavior will test HIV antibody negative, yet may have actually been infected during the previous 3 months; these people will also likely be highly infectious and may easily transmit HIV to their sex and needle-sharing partners. Finally, a negative test result does not mean that a person is safe from future HIV infection. People who test HIV antibody negative are urged to continue to follow HIV prevention guidelines to avoid becoming infected.
- A positive HIV antibody test result means that HIV antibodies are present and that the person has HIV infection. It does not mean the person has AIDS, although many HIV-positive people may develop AIDS after years of infection with HIV. Anyone who tests HIV-positive can transmit the virus to others, regardless of how long they have been infected, whether they have AIDS or other symptoms, or whether their HIV infection is being treated effectively. It is extremely important that HIV-positive people follow HIV prevention guidelines, not only to protect their partners from getting HIV infection, but also to protect themselves from infection with other germs that could cause HIV/AIDS-related disease.
People at increased risk of HIV infection should NEVER donate blood, plasma, or other organs, or go to such facilities to be tested.