Boston HIV Adolescent Provider and Peer Education Network for Services (HAPPENS) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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What is HIV Testing?
HIV testing is a method of screening for HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) using a blood sample.

How is HIV testing done?
At Boston HAPPENS, HIV testing is done by drawing a small amount of blood from your arm and sending it to the laboratory for results. This kind of test is called a 4th generation test and it can find the HIV virus very soon after infection. At Boston HAPPENS, we can run a test that looks for both HIV and Hepatitis C virus, another infection that can be passed by similar means.

Does it hurt?
Maybe a little bit, but only for a brief period. The part of your arm we use to collect our blood sample should stop hurting after a few minutes, and usually heals within a day. Many people who have been tested say that it doesn't hurt nearly as much as they thought it would. 

How quickly can you I get results?
Results are ready in as little as 3 days.

What happens if my results come back positive for HIV?
If your 4th generation HIV test is "reactive", the lab will run a second test on the same blood sample to confirm the result. If the confirmatory test result matches, that would mean you are HIV positive. Your screener can talk to you about what steps are next and help you set up a plan for getting connected to medical care and other services you might want or need.

Is the 4th Generation Test accurate?
4th generation HIV testing is very sensitive, which means that there is a small chance a "reactive" or positive result is false. A negative result is always accurate, unless you have been exposed to HIV within the last 2 weeks. If you have been exposed to HIV in the last 2 weeks, it's too soon to test. You should wait 2 weeks from the last possible exposure* before getting an HIV test. If you’re concerned about something that happened more than 2 weeks ago, but also had more recent exposure, you can consider getting tested now and returning in a month or 2 for a repeat test.

Possible exposures include:

  • Unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex
  • Sharing needles or "works"
  • When a condom breaks or slips off during sex
  • Sexual assault
  • Sharing sex toys
  • Contact with another person's blood
Have more questions? Send your questions to Boston HAPPENS and we will get back to you within 3 days. For testing hours and directions, see our "HIV Counseling and Testing" page.
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