Getting Tested for HIV
January 1, 1981
It is important that all pregnant women get tested for HIV. Anyone with a history of sharing needles, a blood transfusion before March 1985, or who has had sex with a person who is HIV-infected is at risk. Unfortunately, many women are unaware of their risk of HIV infection because they unknowingly had sex with an HIV-infected person. If you have been tested for HIV before, you still need to get tested once you have learned you are pregnant. It can take up to 6 months for HIV antibodies to appear. Uninfected pregnant women who continue to be at high risk of HIV (sharing needles, having unprotected sex with an infected or high-risk partner) should avoid further exposure to HIV and be retested for HIV in the last three months of their pregnancy.
Getting tested for HIV is an easy process. You can either have your doctor perform the test or, if you prefer, you can go to a confidential or anonymous test site where they will do the test for you. Generally, a sample of blood is needed for an HIV test. The blood sample is then sent to a lab and within a few days, you will know the results. Another type of HIV test is called an "oral test." With this test, the doctor will take a swab of saliva from your mouth and send it to the lab for results.
For individuals concerned about their HIV status, and who are not pregnant, there are options available for testing other than your health care provider. These options are listed below. However, all pregnant women need to be tested by their health care provider. For your health and the health of your child, it is extremely important that once you are aware of your HIV status, you discuss this with your health care provider.
Confidential Test Sites
Confidential Test Sites record your name with the test result. They will keep your record secret from everybody except medical personnel, or in some states, the state health department. You should ask who will know the result and how it will be stored. If you have your HIV antibody test done confidentially you can sign a release form to have your test result sent to your doctor.
Anonymous Testing Sites
At Anonymous Testing Sites, no one asks your name and you are the only one who can tell anyone else your result. Anonymous testing is not available in all states.
At-home Tests may be purchased at your pharmacy. Follow the instructions enclosed with the test. Generally, you can call the test company after you mail in your test to find out your results. The test is confidential and you will be identified with a number rather than your name.
To find a confidential or anonymous test site near you, call the Center for Disease Control (CDC) AIDS Hotline at: 1-800-342-AIDS
Additional information on HIV Counseling and Testing is available from the CDC's National AIDS Clearinghouse
Profiles of Women Tested for HIV
The following are anecdotes of real women living with HIV/AIDS and their experience in getting tested for HIV.
"I remember it like it was yesterday. We weren't planning to have a baby right away, so when I found out I was pregnant I was shocked but happy. When I went to a local hospital to get prenatal care, they examined me and took a lot of blood tests to make sure I was healthy.
A few days later I was called in to the prenatal clinic. I was told that some of my blood work showed that I had a problem. The doctor told me that my HIV test had come back positive. He explained that I had the virus and there was a chance that my baby could have it too. I could feel myself going numb. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't speak.
The doctors asked me what I wanted to do about my pregnancy. They talked to me about my health care options, but I didn't want what they had to offer. I couldn't think straight. I was trying to deal with my own fears about being HIV positive."
"As a Latina, my family is really important to me. We help each other out during difficult times. When I found out I was pregnant I was really excited. My family was happy for me too. I wanted to make sure I had a healthy baby so I started going for prenatal care right away.
My first doctor talked to me about HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and offered me an HIV test to see if I was infected. When my results came back positive, I found out they didn't know how to deal with someone like me who was HIV-positive and pregnant. But, my family was very supportive. With the help of my family and doctor, I got a referral to a women's clinic where they understood my situation and knew a lot about pregnant women like me who are HIV positive.The people at the clinic where I was tested seemed to know a lot about pregnant women like me who are HIV-positive."
This article was provided by U.S. Health Care Financing Administration. It is a part of the publication Pregnancy and HIV -- What Women and Doctors Need to Know.