Print this page    •   Back to Web version of article

Fact Sheet: Confidentiality and HIV Testing

December 1, 2001

Most counseling and testing centers follow one of two very different policies regarding the confidentiality of your test results:

Confidential HIV testing involves recording the name of the person who tests positive and reporting confidentially those names to public health authorities. Confidential testing is available in all states. Confidentiality laws and regulations protect against disclosure of the information. You should ask who will know your result and how it will be stored.

In most cases, laboratory staff and, in some states, state health department personnel will have access to test results. If you have an HIV antibody test done confidentially, you can sign a release form to have your test result sent to your doctor. If the results do become a part of your medical record, then the results can be seen by health care workers, insurers or employers. A person's HIV status may also become known if he or she makes a health insurance claim or applies for life or disability insurance.

Anonymous HIV testing is not available in all states. Anonymous HIV testing means that no name is provided to the particular testing center. Instead of a name, the person is allocated a unique identifier code. This means that you are the only one who can tell anyone else your result.

Another form of testing available to the public is the home collection kit. These kits can be purchased over the counter at most drug stores. The only home test approved by the Food and Drug Administration is the Home Access test. The testing procedure involves pricking your finger, placing drops of blood on a specially treated card, then mailing the card in for testing at a licensed laboratory. Customers are given an identification number to use when phoning for the test results. Callers may also speak to a counselor before taking the test, while waiting for the test result, and when getting the result.

What Should I Do If I Test Positive for HIV?

Testing positive for HIV changes your life dramatically. Early medical attention and treatment can be the first step to a longer life and delaying the onset of AIDS. Leading a healthy lifestyle can help prevent life-threatening conditions.

Testing for Youth

All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow minors to receive testing for STDs without the consent of an adult. However, some states categorize HIV separately from STDs and may require minors to have the consent of a guardian to receive testing and treatment for HIV. Also, some states require that treatments for STDs and HIV be reported. It is advised that you contact your local public health authority for your state's specific policies on testing and treating youth for HIV.

Counseling for Youth

Peer counseling is an effective approach to HIV/AIDS education. Since the social and cultural issues that teenagers face may differ from the experiences of adults, young people may be more receptive to receiving information about HIV/AIDS from peers.

Schools and Youth HIV Status

Students, parents and guardians are not obligated to report HIV status to schools. The decision to disclose a student's HIV status to schools is personal and often based on the age of the minor. If the family chooses to inform school authorities, the child's right to privacy must be assured.

This article was provided by American Association for World Health. It is a part of the publication I Care ... Do You? Youth and AIDS in the 21st Century. You can find this article online by typing this address into your Web browser:

General Disclaimer: is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. The information provided through should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, consult your health care provider.