HIV test and results

You can arrange to have an HIV test through your own doctor, at an STI clinic or through Testlab. Both at the STI clinic and at your doctor's office, the test will begin with a short consultation, during which the doctor or nurse will ask you questions to determine if you have run any risks in terms of HIV. Depending on the type of HIV test you do, the results will be known as early as within an hour or only after one week. Via Testlab you can arrange to get tested for HIV anonymously and for free at a location near you.

Consultation

If you get your test done at your doctor's office or at an STI clinic, the doctor or the nurse will usually start by asking you a few questions. To choose the right test, the doctor or nurse will need to ask you when and how you ran a risk. But also, for example, if you are prepared to hear the results in case the test shows that you have HIV. 

The HIV test

There are different kinds of HIV tests. An HIV test measures whether your blood contains antibodies to HIV or if the virus itself is present in your blood. With the standard HIV test, a vial of blood is drawn and tested in a laboratory. Depending on the method of testing used, your blood is tested for the presence of antibodies, HIV virus particles, or both. The results are known within a week to ten days. The advantage of the standard test is that it can already show HIV in your blood just six weeks after infection. Besides the standard test, there is also a rapid HIV test. For the rapid test, just a drop of blood is enough. As the name suggests, the results of that test become available much more quickly: within an hour. But if you have only recently run a risk of getting HIV, the rapid test is a less suitable option. That is because the rapid test is less accurate in determining acute HIV infections. 

Preparing yourself for the result

  • Think in advance about who you can call on for support in case the test results show that you have HIV. That could be a good friend, for example.
  • Will your doctor or the STI clinic call you back with the results? If so, make sure you plan plenty of time for that phone call, without distractions. 
  • Even if you don't expect anything special, it is a good idea to be in a quiet place when you hear the test results.

Results: HIV negative

This means good news (so far): there were no indications that you have HIV. If you ran no risk in terms of HIV for a full twelve weeks (three months) before you took the test, you can assume that the results are accurate and that you really do not have HIV. If you go to hear your results from your doctor or at the STI clinic, your doctor or the clinic nurse will normally discuss the results with you. That could be about what the test results mean, or about how you deal with sex and risks.

  • If the period of time between running a possible risk of getting HIV and taking the test was less than three months, the negative results will not be 100% certain. To confirm those results, you will need to get tested again for HIV once the three-month period has passed.
  • If you get symptoms that could point to a new HIV infection, get tested for HIV as soon as possible.

Results: HIV-positive

If the results of your test are “HIV positive”, that means that the HIV virus has been found in your blood. If the HIV test shows that you have HIV, it is standard practice to do another test to confirm those results. That is known as “confirmation test”. If the extra test also results in “HIV positive”, the test results are certain. 

Finding out that you have HIV is a hard message to hear for most men. The nurse or doctor will take the time to discuss with you in detail what this means for you. You will be referred to an internist who is specialised in the treatment of HIV for more information, advice and treatment. You will have the possibility to start with the treatment quickly. 

Have you just heard that you have HIV? If so, check out 4mezelf.nl for more information and support (in Dutch).

Uncertain test results?

If you have only recently contracted HIV, an HIV test might mistakenly still give you negative results (“no HIV”). How long that period of testing uncertainty lasts will depend on the type of HIV test you use. That period is also known as the window phase. If you have recently contracted HIV, in most cases, HIV will only become detectable in your blood after six weeks. With some people it can take even longer before HIV becomes detectable. That can take up to three months.

To avoid having a test incorrectly indicate that you do not have HIV, the doctor or nurse will advise you to repeat the HIV test a full three months after the moment you had risky sex. If you have symptoms that could point to a recent infection with HIV, get yourself tested immediately. That way, you will know for sure whether or not you have HIV.

Online HIV test

Man tot Man's Testlab makes it possible for you to do a free and anonymous HIV test (and STI tests) whenever you want in the Amsterdam, Rotterdam-Rijnmond or Haaglanden areas as well as in Drenthe, Groningen or Friesland. Download the request form and take it to a reliable laboratory near you. The test will also look for other STIs besides HIV. After one week you will receive a message saying that the results are known.

Get tested online

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