HIV testing shows whether a person has HIV. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection.
HIV testing can detect HIV infection, but it can’t tell how long a person has had HIV or if the person has AIDS.
Why is HIV testing important?
Knowing your HIV status can help keep you—and others—safe.
If you are HIV negative:
Testing shows that you don’t have HIV. Continue taking steps to avoid getting HIV, such as using condoms during sex and, if you are at high risk of getting HIV, taking medicines to prevent HIV (called pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP). For more information, read the AIDSinfo fact sheet on HIV prevention.
If you are HIV positive:
Testing shows that you have HIV, but you can still take steps to protect your health. Begin by talking to your health care provider about antiretroviral therapy (ART). People on ART take a combination of HIV medicines every day to treat HIV infection. ART is recommended for everyone who has HIV, and people with HIV should start ART as soon as possible. ART can’t cure HIV, but HIV medicines help people with HIV live longer, healthier lives.
A main goal of ART is to reduce a person’s viral load to an undetectable level. An undetectable viral load means that the level of HIV in the blood is too low to be detected by a viral load test. People with HIV who maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to their HIV-negative partner through sex.
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