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  4. The Top Ten Questions About HIV Tests

Yes. You can take a free test without giving your name. What are false positives, false negatives, and the window period? The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested. This section answers some of the most common questions related to HIV testing, including the types of tests available, where to get one, and what to expect when you get tested.

mp4The Top Ten Questions About HIV Tests
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Becky Kuhn, M.D., answers the top ten questions about HIV tests:

  • How do HIV tests work?
  • What are the window period and false negatives?
  • How long after exposure to HIV does it take for a person to test HIV positive?
  • What's the risk of a false positive on the initial ELISA test?
  • What's the risk of a false positive diagnosis after a Western Blot test?
  • Can I be tested for free?
  • Can I be tested without revealing my name?
  • Do I have to be stuck with a needle?
  • If I test HIV positive, does that mean Im going to develop AIDS and die?
  • Why should I get tested?

She also explains: anonymous testing; confidential, name-based testing; home-based testing for HIV-1; and use of the PCR Test for detection of HIV infection during the window period. There is a 98.5% chance that an "HIV positive" result on an initial ELISA test is correct (and a 1.5% chance that it was a false positive). There is a 99.9996% chance that an "HIV positive" result after an initial ELISA *and* a confirmatory Western Blot test is correct (and 1 chance in 250,000 that it was a false positive). HIV denialists (people who deny that HIV is the cause of AIDS) often exaggerate the frequency of false positives and ignore the fact that a person must get an "HIV positive" result on BOTH the initial ELISA *and* the confirmatory Western Blot test before the person is given a diagnosis of "HIV positive." If you have taken both an ELISA test and a Western Blot test and your doctor tells you you are HIV positive, believe them!


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It's important to use condoms (rubbers, prophylactics) to help reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). These diseases include the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, and syphilis. You can get them through having sex -- vaginal, anal, or oral.

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