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HIV Testing: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

You can get tested for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This test checks for HIV antibodies and antigens in your blood. If they are found, the test is positive.

If HIV antibodies or antigens are not found, you may need a repeat test to be sure the results are correct. If a repeat test at 3 months is negative, there is no infection.

In some cases, HIV antibodies or antigens don't appear right after exposure. They may not be found for up to 3 months. During this time, an infected person can still spread the virus.

After your test, be sure to tell your doctor how and where to contact you. If you don't hear from your doctor in 1 to 2 weeks after your test, call and ask for your results.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What do the results mean?

Your doctor may ask you to come back to talk about your results. This may happen no matter what your results say. It does not always mean that you have HIV.

Normal result

  • A normal result means that no HIV antibodies or antigens were found in your blood. Normal results are called negative.
  • You may need a repeat test to be sure the results are correct. If a repeat test at 3 months is negative, there is no infection.

Indeterminate result

  • If the results aren't clear, it's called an indeterminate result. This may happen before HIV antibodies or antigens develop. Or it may happen when some other type of antibody or antigen interferes with the results. If this occurs, you will probably have another test right away.

Abnormal result

  • An abnormal result means that you have HIV antibodies or antigens in your blood. These results are called positive.
  • A positive test is repeated on the same blood sample. If two or more results are positive, they must be confirmed by another type of test. This is because some tests can cause false-positive results. No one is considered HIV-positive until the result is confirmed by a test that shows HIV RNA in the person's blood.
  • If your test result is positive, you will get counselling. You can learn how to handle the results and what to do next.
  • If you have a positive test result, contact your sex partners to tell them. They should be tested. You may be able to get help from your local health unit in contacting your sex partners. In many places, a health unit employee will contact you to offer this help.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.