Who should be tested?

Anyone who has participated in any behaviors that put them at risk for HIV should be tested for HIV antibodies. These risk behaviors include those who: have had unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex; have had sex under the influence of alcohol or other drugs; have had sex with multiple partners; have a history of sexually transmitted disease; have a partner with known HIV risk; have a partner with unknown HIV risk status; are/were injection drug users; are survivors of sexual assault; have had an occupational exposure; and/or who have traded sex for drugs or money.


Pre and post-test counseling is an important part of the HIV antibody testing process. Good counseling services will help individuals assess their personal HIV risk, develop a prevention plan, prepare for and interpret test results, and answer questions. Select a test site that offers pre and post-test counseling by trained counselors.

Testing Options

Confidential or anonymous? In a confidential testing, your name is used, but the results of the test are protected information like other parts of your medical record. In an anonymous testing, neither your name nor other personal identifiers are used in the testing process. There is no way to link your test results to you in an anonymous test setting. The only way to guarantee that you control the test results is through an anonymous test site.

How and where is the test done?

Most HIV antibody testing is done by drawing a tube of blood from the arm in one of the following settings: student health centers; publicly funded HIV testing centers; community health, family planning and hospital clinics; tuberculosis (TB) and sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinics; drug treatment facilities; or your doctor’s office. Many publicly funded testing sites are free or require only a minimum fee, while the cost of private testing and home collection kits vary. Results are usually available in one to two weeks.  The College Health Center also provides testing, with no charge to students.

Oral collection method

Some test sites now offer oral testing for HIV antibodies. An advantage of oral testing is less discomfort (no needles). The oral testing method draws oral mucosal fluid (not saliva) onto a specially treated pad held between the cheek and gum.

Interpreting test results

A negative test result indicates the absence of HIV antibodies at the time of the test. All we can safely conclude from a negative HIV antibody test result is that an individual was not infected as of 6 months prior to taking the test, because it can take up to 6 months for the immune system to produce antibodies to HIV. If the individual has participated in risk behaviors anytime during the 6 months prior to the test, the test needs to be repeated. A positive test result means they are infected with HIV. It can not indicate when or if individuals will develop AIDS. Further medical evaluation is necessary for a diagnosis of AIDS. It is important to choose a test site with resources or referrals for helping an individual cope with a positive test result.

Information provided by CDC