DC’S HIV TESTING CAMPAIGN
Do you know your HIV status? If you do, high five! And if you don’t, don’t stress. We’re here to help you figure it out. In fact, that’s what the Ask For The Test campaign is all about: helping DC residents know their HIV status.
Just like getting your blood pressure and cholesterol checked, checking your HIV status is an important part of keeping on top of your health. If you have a regular doctor, you can give them a call to set up testing or you can check out this map of HIV testing sites in DC.
You can also help us raise awareness about HIV testing by posting on social media with the campaign hashtag #AskForTheTest. And if it’s really great, we might even share your post on our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
WHAT TO KNOW
SHOULD I GET TESTED FOR HIV AND HOW OFTEN?
First of all, it’s a good idea for everyone to get tested for HIV at least once in their life. Even if you’ve only ever had one partner, it doesn’t hurt to check — just in case.
And if you’re sexually active and have occasional exposure to HIV risks — like, for example, a new partner or sex without a condom with a partner whose status you don’t know — then you should get tested once a year.
It’s recommended you get checked out every three to six months if you recognize yourself in any of the following descriptions:
- You’re a same-gender loving man.
- You have a partner who is currently living with HIV or AIDs.
- Your current or past partners have had sex with someone who is living with HIV or AIDs.
- You’ve been sexually assaulted.
- You’ve injected street drugs or shared needles.
- You’re a sex worker.
- You’ve had three or more partners in the past year.
WHAT HAPPENS AT AN HIV TEST?
Fun fact: there’s more than one type of HIV test. At the most basic level, some tests are blood tests, some are oral, some give you results within 30 minutes, and some take a couple weeks. With an oral test, the clinician will take a swab inside your mouth and you’ll have a result within 20 minutes. With a blood test, they’ll prick your finger and if it’s a rapid test, you’ll have results within 20 minutes. If it needs to be sent to another lab — and any rapid test that comes back with a positive will be followed by a blood test that needs to be sent out to a lab — it will take a few weeks. Your doctor will give you a better estimate of the timing.
There are also a lot of details about how early a test can detect the virus, so if you’re interested in learning more about the different types of HIV tests, check out this resource from AidsInfo.
HOW DO HIV TESTS WORK?
When you get HIV, your body produces something called antibodies. Those antibodies are what the test is looking for. However, it usually takes about three months for HIV antibodies to show up in your blood stream after you’ve been exposed. So if you’re worried about a potential exposure that just happened, click here to learn more about PEP, which is a drug you can take that helps prevent HIV infection.
Sex is more fun when you know.
WHY DOES DC HAVE A CAMPAIGN FOR HIV TESTING?
DC has a campaign for HIV testing because a lot of people living in DC are living with HIV. And we believe that everyone — each individual and the community as a whole — is better off when we all are empowered with accurate, non-judgmental information about HIV and other STDs. So we’re here to spread the word and encourage everyone to Ask For The Test.
WHERE CAN I GET TESTED?
Check out our map to find a provider near you.
IS THE TEST FREE?
A lot of places offer HIV testing for free! Check out our map to find out where to get tested. You can go to the website of each place to find out whether or not they offer free testing.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ANONYMOUS AND CONFIDENTIAL TESTING?
HIV testing in DC is confidential, but not anonymous. That means your name is on your test and it will go in your medical records. Your doctor and insurance provider may have access to that information. And if you test positive, the health department will be informed as well, but your name won’t be on that report. That’s just so the government can keep track of the rates of HIV infection in DC.
HOW CAN I TALK TO MY PARTNER ABOUT TESTING?
Look, we know: Talking about testing is never fun. But talking to your partner about testing is an important part of taking care of your sexual health. So it’s worth pushing through the awkward and having the conversation.
Here are some sample conversation starters to get you going:
“I care about you and I want us to be as close as possible. How do you feel about getting tested for STDs together?”
“The last time I got tested for STDS, it was not anywhere near as weird as I expected it to be. Has that happened to you? Have you ever been tested?”
“I just read that you can get an HIV test with an oral swab! That’s awesome — I’m scared of blood. Want to go do it with me?”
“I feel awkward bringing this up, but I care about you. Would you be willing to go get tested for STDs with me? We could do something fun afterward, like go to that place we love for lunch!”
OTHER HELPFUL RESOURCES
- The DC Health and Wellness center is a quality resource that offers free HIV testing.
- Whitman-Walker provides total health and wellness for DC residents, including affordable HIV testing.
- Planned Parenthood provides HIV testing, as well as great tips for talking to your partner about testing.