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Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Test

Why It Is Done continued...

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend HIV screening as part of routine blood testing.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends HIV testing:1

  • As part of regular medical care for people 15 to 65 years old.
  • For all pregnant women.
  • For people younger than 15 and older than 65 if they have a high risk for HIV, such as for people who engage in high-risk behavior.

You and your doctor can decide if testing is right for you.

This test is not done to determine if a person has AIDS. A diagnosis of AIDS means a person is HIV-positive and other problems are present.

How To Prepare

You do not need to do anything before you have this test.

A test for HIV infection can't be done without your consent. Most doctors offer counseling before and after the test to discuss:

  • How the test is done, what the results mean, and any other tests that may be done.
  • How the diagnosis of an HIV infection may affect your social, emotional, professional, and financial outlooks.
  • The benefits of early diagnosis and treatment.

Before the test, it is important to tell your doctor how and where to contact you when your test results are ready. If your doctor has not contacted you within 1 to 2 weeks of your test, call and ask for your results.

How It Is Done

The health professional drawing blood will:

  • Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is easier to put a needle into the vein.
  • Clean the needle site with alcohol.
  • Put the needle into the vein. More than one needle stick may be needed.
  • Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with blood.
  • Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is collected.
  • Apply a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as the needle is removed.
  • Apply pressure to the site and then a bandage.

How It Feels

You may feel nothing at all from the needle puncture, or you may feel a brief sting or pinch as the needle goes through the skin. Some people feel a stinging pain while the needle is in the vein. But many people do not feel any pain (or have only minor discomfort) once the needle is positioned in the vein. The amount of pain you feel depends on the skill of the health professional drawing the blood, the condition of your veins, and your sensitivity to pain.

Risks

There is very little risk of complications from having blood drawn from a vein.

  • You may develop a small bruise at the puncture site. You can reduce the risk of bruising by keeping pressure on the site for several minutes after the needle is withdrawn.
  • In rare cases, the vein may become inflamed after the blood sample is taken. This condition is called phlebitis and is usually treated with a warm compress applied several times daily.
  • Continued bleeding can be a problem for people with bleeding disorders. Aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), and other blood-thinning medicines can also make bleeding more likely. If you have bleeding or clotting problems, or if you take blood-thinning medicine, tell your health professional before your blood is drawn.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 06, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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