Can a Regular Blood Test Detect HIV?

Routine blood work is in fact a battery of separate tests, all run on samples of your blood. Each test looks for a different thing. While there's no reason why the tests shouldn't include a specific test for HIV, this isn't necessarily routine practice.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages medical professionals to routinely offer HIV testing to people living in areas where HIV is a common medical problem. They should also offer testing to people whose behavior may put them at increased risk. But patients should be specifically informed that HIV testing is part of routine care and have the opportunity to decline HIV testing.

And implementation of the CDC's guidance is patchy. While an HIV test could be included with your routine blood work, there's a very strong chance that it isn't.

Typical routine blood tests include the complete blood count (CBC) that measures your red and white blood cell numbers as well as hemoglobin and other numbers. Abnormal increases or decreases in these cell counts may indicate that you have an underlying medical condition that calls for further evaluation. But this is not a sensitive test for HIV infection.

Other tests often included examine your blood glucose, calcium, electrolyte, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

You could ask your healthcare provider whether he or she could include an HIV test alongside your other blood tests.

More on HIV Testing at

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In addition, our Q&A experts sometimes address questions about HIV testing in our "Ask the Experts" forums. Here are some of those questions and our experts' responses:

  • Doctor said Regular Blood Tests would show Signs of HIV Infection
    I was worried about symptoms and I told my doctor. He ordered some blood tests but not an HIV test; he said if I had any disease it would show in my regular blood work. Does that sound right to you?
  • Confused about Results
    My fiancé recently went to have a check up at his new provider, where they performed a routine examination and blood test. He didn't know he would be tested for HIV, but when he went in for the results, the doctor told him that they had tested his blood for HIV and got "abnormalities" on the test.

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