When I was in college, I got tested for HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) a couple of times; once because I thought it was good to know, and the other because my partner and I decided to go together. Both times I went to the campus health center, and I actually never thought about whether or not my parents would find out. I don’t think I actually cared either, but some students, like the one who asked this question, are worried that their parents will be notified of the test. Erin Kaufmann, a recent graduate and peer health educator from the University of Georgia, has some words to share on the subject below. For more Q&A check out the Overheard On Campus series or the Advice section of MyStudentBody. Erin says …
First, it’s great that you are taking the initiative to get tested. The virus often spreads because individuals aren’t aware they’re HIV positive, and they don’t take the right precautions to prevent giving it to their partners. Testing is the only sure way to know whether you are HIV positive or negative.
An HIV test determines the presence of antibodies to the virus; if you test positive for the antibodies, there is HIV in your system. These antibodies can be detected in samples of either blood or saliva. A routine blood test may take a few days to determine the results, but a rapid oral test will yield results in about 20 minutes. It may take 6 to 12 weeks to develop enough of these antibodies to show up in a test – this is known as the “window period.” The average period is 25 days, but in some rare cases it can take up to 6 months to develop enough antibodies to yield a positive test. If you are sexually active (especially if you have multiple partners) it’s important to get tested frequently to be sure of your status, keeping the window period in mind.
Most HIV tests are confidential and anonymous. If you are getting tested at your college’s health center, your results will probably not be relayed to your parents, but I would advise you to check on your college health center’s website to be sure. This page should also give you the cost of the test – some testing sites are free, but others may charge a small fee.
AIDS Athens. (2011). “Testing Frequently Asked Questions.” Retrieved from: http://www.aidsathens.org/get_tested_faq_regarding_testing.php