There are a few different ways to test for HIV:
- Blood test
- Collecting some saliva from your cheek on a cotton swab
There are three different types of tests for HIV that are done in a doctor's office:
- Standard blood test, also known as EIA or ELISA tests
- A sample of blood is taken from your arm
- You get the results in about two weeks
- Rapid tests
- Two types:
- Finger stick – some blood is taken from the tip of you finger
- Oral – some saliva is taken from your mouth with a cotton swab
- You get the results in about 20 minutes
- Western Blot test
- If the Standard blood test or a rapid test comes back positive, a Western blot test is automatically done.
- If this test comes back positive, you will be diagnosed with HIV
There is another type of test that you can buy at most pharmacies without a prescription – the home access kit. This is also a finger stick test – you prick your finger, place a drop of blood on the card that comes with the kit and send the card to a lab. You can get the results over the phone in one to three days. If this test comes back positive, you should see a doctor to make sure the test is correct.
BE AWARE: HIV doesn't show up in test results right away. It can take up to three months or longer for a test to come back positive after someone is infected. Your doctor may recommend that you retake the test in three months, to be sure you are not infected.
Many doctor's offices, hospitals and clinics offer HIV testing at a low cost or for free. Find a place to get tested from our list of testing locations.