You can never tell who's got HIV. Anyone can be HIV+ and not know it -- including you. People who are HIV+ can speak any language, be young or old, gay or straight or in between, skinny or hunky or curvy.

Don't believe it when people tell you to "just be monogamous" or "choose your partners carefully." It doesn't matter how well you know somebody, how much sex you have, or how many people you do it with. The only thing that matters is that you play safe.

It's a good idea to get tested if you think you may have been exposed to HIV (see AIDS). But even the test doesn't always tell you whether or not you are infected. First of all, it can take 6 months or longer to test positive once you've been exposed to HIV. Also, the test can be wrong sometimes (this is called a "false positive" or "false negative").

The only good reason to get tested is to be able to take care of your health in the special ways you'll need to if you are HIV+. Even if you test HIV-, that doesn't mean you should feel like you can have unsafe sex.

if you decide to get an HIV test

You have a right to know whether you are HIV+ or HIV-, and to control who else knows that.

There are four kinds of HIV tests:
  1. involuntary. It is usually against the law for anyone -- your parents, your doctor, your school, or your employer -- to force you to take an HIV test. If you think you've been tested without your consent, call a local AIDS organization for help getting legal advice, or call the ACLU AIDS Project (see Resources).

  2. confidential. This is when the people testing you know your name or anything else about who you are. Usually they promise they won't reveal your HIV status to anyone else, but if you test positive there's no guarantee. It may be legal for the testing center to tell your parents and your school. Insurance companies and future employers may also find out. Make sure the people testing you for HIV tell you exactly where they'll send information about you.

  3. anonymous. This is the way to go if you want an HIV test. Call the local Department of Health, a local AIDS organization, or the National AIDS Hotline to find out where you can get a free anonymous test (see Resources.). When you call to make your appointment, make sure the test will be anonymous. You should not have to give your name, social security number, phone number, or any other personal information.

  4. Home HIV Test Kits. These are tests you can buy in a drugstore or order over the phone (see Resources for toll free number). The tests are completely anonymous. Most of them require that you prick your finger and put a few drops of blood on a test card. Then you mail the sample to the company lab to be tested. You can call and get your results in three to seven days. When you call for your results, don't give your name, give the code number on the test kit. You should repeat the test in six months. Counseling is available on request.

When you go for a test, you may want to bring a friend with you, but it's OK to go alone. You should get pre-test counseling when you get there, and time to ask questions. After the test, you'll get an appointment to come back for your results. You should also have post-test counseling at your return visit, whether you have tested HIV+ or HIV-.


If you test positive, don't freak out. First of all, it could be a false positive. So be sure to get retested. Second, people live for many years after becoming HIV positive, and still work, go to school, and enjoy sex. But they have to take special care of their health. That's why we recommend people with HIV call one of the support agencies listed under Resources. If you test HIV positive the counselor will probably ask you if you want help telling your partner(s) and/or your family. Remember that this information is yours and no one can force you to tell anyone else, but it will help to talk to people you trust.

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anyone can be HIV+ and not know it including you play safe every time you have a right to control who else knows if you test positive don't freak out

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