HIV Testing

An HIV test is a test that shows if you have been infected with HIV. When a person is infected with HIV, his or her immune system tries to fight the virus by creating antibodies. Antibodies are one of the body’s tools for fighting infections. An HIV test looks for the presence of HIV antibodies. If HIV antibodies are present, the person is HIV-infected. The most common test for HIV is done using a vial of blood. However, a rapid test can be done using only a finger stick sample of blood. The rapid test takes only 20 minutes and is used as a screening tool for HIV. If the rapid test comes back positive, a person needs to take a blood test to confirm the results. more

Who Should be Tested

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that you should consider being tested if:

  • You are between ages 13 to 64.
  • You are sexually active.
  • You have never had an HIV test and are in a sexual relationship.
  • You have had multiple sex partners.
  • You have ever shared syringes or drug-injecting materials (such as cotton, water, or workers).
  • You are a gay or bisexual man.
  • You are being treated for/have ever had a sexually transmitted disease. If you get an STD you are more likely to get HIV than someone who is STD-free. This is because the same behaviors and circumstances that may put you at risk for getting an STD can also put you at greater risk for getting HIV. In addition, having a sore or break in the skin from an STD may allow HIV to more easily enter your body.
  • You are pregnant, to reduce the risk of passing the virus on to your baby. We recommend HIV testing as a routine test during pregnancy. Without treatment, an HIV-infected woman has about a 1-in-4 chance of infecting her baby during pregnancy or delivery. Medical treatment can reduce this to about a 1% chance. more

Testing Sites

HIV counseling, testing, and referral services are available through family planning agencies and other health centers in Rhode Island.

People who are sexually active should get checked at least once a year, even if they don't have any symptoms. There are many options for getting tested for HIV and STDs in Rhode Island, including:


HIV tests are either anonymous or confidential. Both anonymous and confidential testing sites maintain the highest degree of privacy.

Anonymous Testing

Anonymous testing is when you choose to get tested at a funded community-based rapid testing site. When you have the test done at an anonymous site, you are given a private code number. No one asks your name. You are the only one who can tell anyone else your result. If you are HIV positive and had an anonymous test, it is important to seek medical care immediately.

Confidential Testing

Confidential testing means you give the testing site your name. Your record will be kept secret from everybody except medical personnel. You should ask who will know the result and how it will be stored. If you have your HIV antibody test done confidentially, you can sign a release form to have your test result sent to your doctor. Confidential test results may be put in your medical record. Like all your medical information, your HIV test results cannot be given to anyone without your written permission. If you have the test done in your healthcare provider’s office, hospital, clinic, or any other facility, your test results are confidential.


HIV tests are covered by most health insurances. In addition, many testing sites offer no or low cost testing. Please check with the site for specific cost information.

    Window Periods

    A window period is the time between when a person is infected and a positive test result occurs. Generally it takes one to three months (and possibly up to six months) following infection before antibodies to the virus are at a level in the blood to be detected. Because the HIV test is based on the presence of antibodies, the HIV test may be negative in an infected person during the window period. If you have engaged in behaviors that may have exposed you to HIV, but have tested negative, your healthcare provider may ask you to repeat the test later after the window period is over, or they may order a viral load, which can identify the virus in a newly infected person.


Should I Get Tested for HIV?

STDs and HIV

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