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Getting your HIV test results

Waiting for your HIV test results can be a daunting time. But remember why you tested in the first place.

A negative result means you can stop worrying. A positive result means you can start treatment straight away to live a normal healthy life. 

How will I get the result?

If you took a rapid test or self-test, you will get your results within 20 minutes.

If you took another type of test, your health centre will contact you when the results are ready.

What does a negative result mean?

This means that you don’t have HIV.

But, if you have been at risk since your last test then you’ll need to test again. Remember that most HIV tests can only detect HIV one to three months after exposure.

Sometimes a negative result is also called a non-reactive result. It means the same thing: that you don’t have HIV. 

What does a reactive result mean?

This means that the test wasn’t clear if it detected HIV or not. You will need to test again to confirm your results.

What does a positive result mean?

You will need a second test to confirm the result. In some countries you will need three tests in total to confirm the result.

If you get a positive result after using a self-test kit you will need to go to a healthcare clinic.

If your final test result is positive, it means you do have HIV. Receiving a positive diagnosis can be a shocking and emotional experience – this is completely normal. The healthcare worker will support you and answer any questions that you have.

You can now start treatment straight away which will keep you healthy.

Living with HIV

Will my partner(s) have the same result as me?

Not necessarily. HIV tests only apply to the person who took the test. If your previous or current partners are worried about HIV, encourage them to take a test.

Who will know my results?

Only you and your healthcare professional will know your results – they will be kept private.

Do I have to tell my sexual partner(s)?

It is difficult to decide if, when, and how to tell people that you have HIV (sometimes called disclosure).

It is important to understand the law around sharing your status where you live. In some countries you must tell your sexual partners you have HIV.

Sharing your status can be hard, and help is available. Speak to your healthcare professional.

Sharing your status with your partner

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What should I say if someone tells me they have HIV?

First of all, be calm and supportive. It may have been very daunting for them to tell you.

Here are some things you could consider saying:

  • Thank them for letting you know and for trusting you to know their status.
  • Ask if there’s anything you can do to help. Perhaps they are feeling sad or are struggling to take their treatment. You could offer to talk things through and figure things out together.
  • Promise to keep this information private. This is their information to share with others if they wish to, not yours.
  • Ask them about their feelings and experiences. This can help you understand what they are going through.
  • It may help to learn more about HIV, the content on this site is a good place to start!

Criminalisation of HIV transmission

In some countries, people with HIV can be criminalised for transmission, exposure and/or non-disclosure of their HIV status.

These laws are problematic. For example, it fails to acknowledge that taking effective treatment means that someone can’t transmit HIV. This is also known as undetectable equals untransmittable (U=U). Threatening to criminalise people puts people off HIV testing, treatment and prevention services.

However, it is important to know the law where you live.

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