HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. If you have HIV (also called being HIV-positive), early treatment can help you live a long, healthy life.
The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. Everyone ages 15 to 65 needs to get tested for HIV at least once. All pregnant women also need to get tested. If you’re at higher risk for HIV, you may need to get tested more often.
If you get tested at a doctor’s office or clinic, you can ask for a confidential test. This means the test results will only be available to people you allow to see your medical records. Some clinics offer anonymous HIV testing. This means that you don’t have to give your name.
What about cost?
Insurance plans must cover HIV testing. That means you may be able to get HIV testing and counseling at no cost to you. Talk to your insurance company to find out more.
What do I ask the doctor?
When you visit the doctor, it helps to have questions written down ahead of time. You can also ask a family member or friend to go with you to take notes.
Print this list of questions and take it with you to your next appointment.
- Should I get tested for HIV?
- What puts me at risk for HIV?
- How will you test me for HIV?
- Who will see my test results?
- How long will it take to get my test results?
- How will I find out my results?
- Should I get tested for any other STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)?
- If I have HIV, what will happen next?
If you learn you don't have HIV during the visit, you might want to ask these questions.
- How can I protect myself from HIV?
- When do I need to get tested again?
- Does my sex partner still need to get tested for HIV?
- Do you offer counseling on HIV prevention? If you don’t, can you recommend a place that does?
Content last updated November 4, 2021
This information on HIV was adapted from materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Disease.
Elizabeth A. DiNenno, PhD
Associate Deputy Director for Surveillance, Epidemiology and Laboratory Sciences
Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention