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Where to get a rapid HIV test and other HIV testing options
There are different options for HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) testing and a number of places where you can get an HIV test.
A rapid HIV test is a screening test that detects the presence of antibodies to the virus. It is usually done with blood from a finger stick or with fluid from a mouth swab. The results from a rapid HIV test are available in about 30 minutes.
- Norton Prompt Care at Walgreens clinics offer rapid HIV tests, and they have extended evening and weekend hours.
- At-home HIV tests also are available. You will need follow-up testing if you get a positive result from a rapid HIV or at-home test.
- Other testing options include laboratory tests that use blood drawn from a vein. The blood is sent to a lab for testing, and results are available in a couple of days.
- Laboratory-based testing is available through your Norton Healthcare primary care provider and at Norton Immediate Care Centers and Norton Healthcare hospital emergency departments.
People who receive a positive HIV test result at any Norton Healthcare location may be referred to Norton Infectious Diseases Institute, which provides a medical home and confidential, respectful care for people with HIV.
To find a location near you, visit NortonNow.com.
How do I know if I have HIV?
The only way to know for sure if you are HIV-positive is to get tested. If you do not get tested, you may unknowingly transmit HIV to others or acquire a more severe and chronic stage of infection, ultimately leading to AIDS. The test is covered by insurance. Scheduling an appointment with a provider to do this simple test, usually a swab or blood test, will also give you an opportunity to talk to someone confidentially about any concerns you may have.
Who should be tested for HIV and when?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone between ages 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once.
More frequent testing is recommended for people who have certain risk factors for HIV. According to HIV.gov, sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent testing, such as every
three to six months. You should be tested for HIV if you answer “yes” to any of the following questions about your risk since your last HIV test:
Are you a man who has had sex with another man?
Have you had anal or vaginal sex with a partner who has HIV?
Have you had more than one sex partner?
Have you injected drugs and shared needles or works (for example, water or cotton) with
Have you exchanged sex for drugs or money?
Have you been diagnosed with, or sought treatment for, another sexually transmitted disease?
Have you been diagnosed with or treated for hepatitis or tuberculosis (TB)?
Have you had sex with someone who could answer “yes” to any of the above questions or
someone whose sexual history you don’t know?
Will I feel symptoms if I have HIV?
Some people feel symptoms 2 to 4 weeks after infection. Others do not feel sick at all at the onset of HIV, so the best thing to do if you think you’ve been exposed is to get tested. These symptoms could last a few days or several weeks, and include:
Swollen lymph nodes
What happens if I don’t get treatment?
HIV progresses in stages. If left untreated, this progression can be more rapid.
Stage 1: Acute HIV infection
- People have a large amount of HIV in their blood. They are very contagious.
Some people have flu-like symptoms. This is the body’s natural response to infection.
But some people may not feel sick right away or at all. If you have flu-like symptoms and think you may have been exposed to HIV, seek medical care and ask for a test to diagnose acute infection.
Only antigen/antibody tests or nucleic acid tests (NATs) can diagnose acute infection.
Stage 2: Chronic HIV infection
- This stage also is called asymptomatic HIV infection or clinical latency.
HIV is still active but reproduces at very low levels.
People may not have any symptoms or get sick during this phase.
Without taking HIV medicine, this period may last a decade or longer, but some may progress
People can transmit HIV during this stage.
At the end of this stage, the amount of HIV in the blood (called viral load) goes up and the CD4
cell count goes down. The person may have symptoms as the virus levels increase in the body,
and the person moves into Stage 3.
People who take HIV medicine as prescribed may never move into Stage 3.
Stage 3: Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
This is the most severe stage of HIV infection.
People with AIDS have such badly damaged immune systems that they get an increasing number of severe illnesses, called opportunistic infections.
People receive an AIDS diagnosis when their CD4 cell count drops below 200 cells/mm, or if they develop certain opportunistic infections.
People with AIDS can have a high viral load and be very infectious.
Without treatment, people with AIDS typically survive about three years.
What steps can I take to prevent HIV?
Since HIV is spread primarily through sexual activities that involve contact with bodily fluids and sharing injectable syringes with others, there are many things you can do to prevent contracting HIV.
To prevent getting HIV from sex, use condoms and get yourself tested regularly. To prevent getting HIV from injection drug use, make sure to never share needles, avoid sex when under the influence and reach out to someone to find treatment.
PrEP also is available for those at risk for HIV to take to prevent contracting the virus. It is highly
effective in preventing HIV from sex and injection drug use when taken as prescribed.