More Testing Information
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How can I tell if I have HIV?
The only way to be certain is to have an HIV antibody blood test.
Why should I get tested?
If you have been at risk testing is important. There are important benefits of knowing if you are HIV infected. You can get the latest medical treatment as soon as possible, and take extra care not to infect anyone.
If you are HIV positive you can:
- Get early treatment to stay healthy
- Get treatment to reduce the chances of your baby getting HIV if you are pregnant
- Take precautions to not give HIV to others
If you are HIV negative you can:
- Experience less stress and anxiety because you will know your status
- Learn more about how to reduce your risk of becoming infected
Wouldn’t HIV just show up as a low antibody count?
No. Testing for HIV infection is not done in regular blood work. Special tests are conducted specifically for HIV.
What will the HIV antibody test be able to tell me?
When you are infected by a virus or germ your blood makes proteins, called antibodies, to help fight off disease. Different antibodies are made to protect you from different diseases.
If your body has been infected with HIV, HIV antibodies are made. The HIV antibody test looks for these antibodies. If they show up on the first test, your blood sample will be re-checked to confirm the results.
If I get tested, will I know right away if I am negative?
Not Necessarily. It is common that you could be HIV infected and not have it show up on a test. Your body could take 6 months to make enough HIV antibodies to show up on a test. The scary part is that people in this “window period” can infect others while showing no sign of infection on a test.
Get tested now if you know you have been at risk. However, your doctor will likely test you again in 6 months if you have recently been at risk of HIV infection.
I have symptoms of HIV, but my test came back negative?
HIV can up to six months to show up as a positive result, but modern testing techniques have evolved significantly. If you are experiencing low-grade fever, muscle pain or develop sores in your mouth even though you had a negative HIV result, you should return to your doctor. Having unprotected sex puts you at risk for any number of sexually transmitted diseases as well as HIV and Hepatitis C. You should return to your doctor and tell him/her your symptoms and ask to be tested for other sexually transmitted diseases. You could ask for a follow-up HIV test just as a precaution.
Can I just get tested regularly and forget all this safer sex stuff?
Some people think that getting tested regularly protects them. As a way to prevent HIV, repeated testing is stupid. Once you have a positive test, there will be nothing you can do to change it. You will have HIV for the rest of your life. These are tough words, but when HIV progresses to AIDS, the person usually dies within a couple of years without anti-retroviral treatment.
If you have intercourse without condoms or share needles and you have had a negative HIV antibody blood test, you have been lucky. Unless you change your risk behaviors, you are playing Russian roulette.
What is the longest amount of time a person can have HIV before it shows up on a test?
If your body has been infected with HIV, HIV antibodies are made. The HIV antibody test looks for these antibodies. If they show up on the first test, your blood sample will be re-checked to confirm the results. It is common that you could be HIV infected and not have it show up on a test. Your body could take 6 months to make enough HIV antibodies to show up on a test.
Where can I get tested for HIV?
Testing is available through doctors’ offices and STI clinics and at some Family Planning clinics.
Don’t assume you are being tested for HIV when you have other tests or physical examinations. You need to ask for an HIV antibody blood test. You shouldn’t be tested unless you have given your consent.
How Much Does It Cost To Have A Test?
If you are tested because of health concerns, you will not be charged. If you are being tested in order to apply for life insurance, a foreign work visa, or some other non-medical reason you may be charged a fee. Costs vary but are generally under $40.
Who Sees My Test Results?
For peace of mind, ask your doctor how your results will be handled by laboratory, office or hospital staff. Ask what will be done to keep your testing and results confidential.
Results are reported to the doctor who ordered the test. The doctor will discuss the results with you, only.
Can I get tested anonymously?
There are two sites for anonymous HIV testing in Calgary: Safeworks and the STD Clinic. No appointment is needed at Safeworks but it might be nice to have one at STD Clinic.
The STD Clinic number is: (403) 944-7575. Safeworks number is (403) 410-1180 Mon-Friday 1-5pm.