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Pregnancy and HIV Testing

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Why Should Pregnant Women Be Tested for HIV?

Doctors recommend all pregnant women get tested for HIV. Medications are available to prevent the spread of the virus to your unborn baby. In addition, steps can be taken during delivery to prevent spreading the infection. Some studies show a woman can further reduce the risk of spreading the virus to her baby by having a cesarean section before her water breaks. Moreover, your health care provider can take steps to help you stay healthy longer.

Is HIV Testing Required?

No. HIV testing is voluntary. Anyone is free to decline testing. Your decision to not get tested, or the test result itself, will not prevent you from getting health care during pregnancy.

Can I Change My Mind About HIV Testing?

Yes. If after giving the blood sample you decide against testing, inform the attending nurse or doctor. Patients who are not hospitalized (outpatients) can withdraw their consent up until they leave the facility. Hospital patients (inpatients) can withdraw their consent up until one hour after the blood sample has been drawn.

What Do the HIV Test Results Mean?

A confirmed, positive test result means you have been infected with HIV. Being infected with HIV does not necessarily mean that you have AIDS. It can take many years for people with HIV to develop AIDS.

A negative test result means that no signs of HIV infection were found in your blood. A negative test does not always mean that you do not have HIV. Signs of HIV may not show up in the blood for several months after infection. For this reason, you should be tested again if you could have been exposed to HIV or are at risk for HIV infection.

What Happens to My HIV Test Results?

Your HIV test results become part of your medical record. Therefore, the results could be disclosed to third-party payers (such as medical insurance companies) and other authorized parties. A positive test result will also be reported to the appropriate health department.

How Can My HIV Test Results Be Kept Confidential?

Though HIV tests performed at most doctors offices become part of the patient's medical record, there are places you can go that provide confidential HIV testing. These places will perform HIV tests without even taking your name (anonymous testing). An anonymous HIV test does not become part of your medical record.

Should you discover that you have HIV, inform your medical providers so that you can receive proper care.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on December 11, 2013
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