HIV Testing

Frequently Asked Questions

Regular and consistent HIV testing plays a huge role in your health and the health of your community. The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. The majority of new HIV infections in Texas come from folks who do not know their HIV status, so it is very important that your status and your partner’s status stay up to date. Remember, your negative HIV status can change, so you must work to maintain it. If it does change, you must also work to attain and maintain your viral suppression. SAAF can help you with both.

When should you update your status?

Well, it depends on you!

HIV testing is recommended once a year, if you are sexually active or shoot drugs or do anything that exposes you to blood, semen, or vaginal fluid. The recommended frequency of testing increases as more risk factors are present.

In addition to a risk-appropriate frequency, keep these things in mind, as well:

  • You testing for HIV does not reduce your risk of contracting HIV. Your behavior reduces your risk of contracting HIV.
  • It can take up to 12 weeks after HIV infection for you to test positive on an HIV antibody test.
  • You should still test at a routine appropriate for you if you are in a relationship. If you go to the doctor annually for a physical (or well-woman exam), this would be a great time to request confirming (or adding) HIV screening to your lab work. You can always call your insurance provider to find out if HIV screening is covered at annual visits.
  • The most loving thing to hear in your new monogamous relationship is: “Let’s get tested.” Think about it: you are testing for your partner; and your partner is testing for you. You may need to prepare yourself before having this conversation as it may be something new to both of you. Remember, anyone who has sex without a condom is at some risk for contracting or transmitting HIV. HIV does not discriminate! It does not care what your age, race, sex, gender expression, sexual orientation, education level, religion, relationship status, testing routine, or income is. If you have sex without a condom, that’s enough justification for testing. Let your partner know this, because it is so important that your partner understands that simply asking her or him to test is not an accusation of anything. It’s a respectful, caring, compassionate, and loving start to your relationship. Ignorance is not always bliss. If you do find out that you or your partner are HIV+, don’t fret. There are so many wonderful medical advancements available to you and your partner to help keep your health and HIV statuses as they are.

What should I expect?

Along with the HIV and syphilis test results, we offer risk-reduction counseling to help you maintain your results.

We won’t lecture you with things you already know. Instead, we will help strengthen the things you are already doing that are reducing your risk of contracting or transmitting HIV. We may also have some other ideas you may want to try. If you need help with something we can’t provide, we will gladly refer you in the right direction. As a community-based organization, we have relationships with many other supportive community-based organizations that can assist you.

“Are you ready to receive your results?”

Prior to coming into our office, it is likely that this is something that you’ve been thinking about.

For some, the test is routine and calm, for others, this test has been on their mind for days, months, and sometimes years. Regardless of your reason for testing, we are incredibly proud of you for choosing today as the day you come in for your test. Whether you are coming in for routine testing or a specific event that has you really worried, preparation is equally important.
The more you prepare yourself with accurate information beforehand, the more you will be prepared for the possible outcome. A lot of fear about HIV-positivity stems from your perceived unknowns.

Ask yourself: “What if I test positive?” Now try to answer it. If it is making you sweat, think about these questions, instead:

1. What do you know about living with HIV?
Did you know that people actually LIVE long awesome lives with HIV? Near average life-spans in many cases. You’ll have to take medicine every day for the rest of your life, and go to the doctor regularly, and take care of yourself (we should all do that.) HIV is considered a chronic and manageable illness, not a death sentence!

2. Are you afraid you cannot afford treatment because you lost your job or don’t have insurance?
Relax! That’s what our case management team is here for! They are social workers who help navigate the many aspects of HIV treatment with you. There are so many programs available to help pay for doctor’s visits, labs and medicine.

3. Are you worried about relationships or sex?
This is where having up-to-date and medically accurate information comes in very handy. In addition to barrier methods and other risk-reduction strategies, there are two medical means to help prevent the transmission or acquisition of HIV: TasP (treatment as prevention- viral load suppression) and PrEP (Truvada as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis). TasP has been shown to reduce the transmission of HIV to HIV-negative partners by 96 percent. Truvada is a medication first developed for the treatment of HIV. In 2012, it was approved for use as a once-daily pill taken by HIV-negative individuals to help prevent them from acquiring HIV. PrEP, when taken consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of HIV infection by more than 90 percent.

The items listed above are concrete ‘knowns’ about living, learning, and loving with HIV. What is not listed though is stigma. Stigma is defined as “a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something.” HIV does not ever define someone. It is a virus, that’s it. As mentioned many times, if you have sex without a condom or inject drugs, you are at risk for HIV.

Now that you're ready...

Upon arrival at our office, you will be asked to fill out, read, and sign a Consent to Test form.

Your test counselor will sign this as well as the San Antonio AIDS Foundation’s HIPAA Notice of Privacy Practices (NPP). After that, we’ll ask you some personal questions that will help us get a better picture of you and your risk level. The more open and honest you are with your test counselor, the better we can guide or strengthen what you’re already doing. Not everyone that tests will receive in-depth counseling, some just need some reaffirmation and kudos.

The test will place after we have conducted a risk assessment and we’ve talked about what you will try to do to reduce your risk HIV infection.

We ask everyone if they are ready to receive their HIV test results. It is important that you are truly ready to receive these results whether they be HIV-positive or HIV-negative.

Think about your current emotional state. Is this something you really think you can handle right now? Are you really upset and need some time to cool off or calm down? Being ready to receive your HIV test results will help you best handle the outcome – no matter what it is.

Results are in!

We also ask all clients if they are ready for their results. We just want you to be ready when we tell you.

Negative: Your test is negative. The INSTI test did not find HIV antibodies. This result is a reflection of your HIV status as of 12 weeks earlier. You may need to re-test if you have had unprotected sex or shared injection drug equipment during that time. You and your counselor can discuss an appropriate frequency of testing based on your situation.

Preliminary Positive: The test found HIV antibodies. The result is “preliminary” because it is only a screening test. In order to confirm HIV infection, we will draw a tube of blood from you and send it to the laboratory for further testing.