Testing for HIV Is as Easy as 1, 2 or 3

H. I. V. These might just the three most feared letters in the world of sexually transmitted diseases. Luckily, HIV testing is widely accessible and it’s available in three different forms—more than any other STD out there. Two of the tests are conducted at health care providers and low-cost clinics across Colorado while the third is a simple, at-home test you can purchase at your local pharmacy.

What’s tricky about HIV is that you have to wait awhile after exposure before a test can detect the virus. This can mean anything from three weeks to six months to get an accurate result. Kind of a bummer, but your patience will pay off. Getting tested will give you real answers, so you can take things step by step knowing you are fully informed.

While you wait, talk to your partner, friends, family or health care provider about your concerns and feelings. You might be surprised how much a good conversation can put your mind at ease. Also be sure to cover up and use a condom any time you have sexual contact. If you do end up being HIV-positive, you will be highly contagious during this early, “waiting” time, so you’ll want to protect your partner.

When it comes to testing you’ve got three options:

  1. A lab blood test: For these types of tests, a healthcare provider takes a small sample of blood and sends it to a lab for testing. It hurts the same as any simple blood draw (just a little prick) and can take a week or so to get the results back.
  2. A professional rapid test: These are tests that only take between 15–20 minutes to reveal results. To complete them, a health care provider will take a small blood sample or just swab the inside of your cheek.
  3. An at-home rapid test: This is a relatively new testing kit called OraQuick. The OraQuick at-home test is something you can buy from a pharmacy (usually around $40) and do yourself with a swab at home. If the test is positive, make an appointment with a knowledgeable health care professional ASAP so you can discuss your next steps.

If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV, and it has been less than 72 hours, call your health care provider immediately to talk about the post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) medication. This is a prescription that has been proven to reduce the possibility of exposure turning into infection.

Just remember, many people with HIV don’t show any symptoms, so make sure you use your noggin during hanky-panky. Condoms are your very best friends in protecting against this virus, and the testing options we’ve listed above can help keep you and your partner in the know with what’s happening with your bodies.