General Pre-Test and Post-Test Information
Counseling before and after an HIV test is important because it provides critical information about HIV itself and about the testing process. While counseling services may not be available in all health care settings, many testing sites do offer these services. If you would like access to pre-test and post-test counseling, be sure to inquire about the availability of these services at your chosen test site. If they do not have them readily available, the staff may be able to direct you to alternate service providers who do.
Pre-test counseling sessions generally include the following:
- Information about the HIV test—what it tests for, what it might NOT tell you, and how long it will take you to get your results
- Information about how HIV is transmitted and how you can protect yourself from infection
- Information about the confidentiality of your test results
- A clear, easy-to-understand explanation of what your test results mean
Once the results are available, you will usually be given the results in private and in person. Post-test counseling generally includes:
- Clear communication about what your test result means
- HIV prevention counseling, if your results are negative
- A confirmatory test, called a Western blot test, if your results are positive. The results of that test should be available within 2 weeks.
If Your HIV Test is Positive
- Your counselor will discuss what it means to live a healthy life with HIV and how you can keep from infecting others.
- Your counselor will also talk about treatments for HIV and can link you to a physician for immediate care. Getting into treatment quickly is important—it can help you keep your immune system healthy and keep you from progressing to AIDS.
- All HIV-positive test results must be reported to your state health department for data tracking. Many states then report data to the CDC, but no personal information (name, address, etc.) is ever shared when those data are reported.
For more information, see CDC’s What if I test positive for HIV?
HIV Pre-Test and Post Test Counseling for Pregnant Women
CDC has outlined these recommendations for HIV counseling and testing of pregnant women:
- All pregnant women should be tested for HIV as early as possible during pregnancy, and HIV screening should be included in the routine panel of prenatal screening tests.
- Patients should be informed that HIV screening is recommended for all pregnant women and that it will be performed unless they decline (opt-out screening).
- If a pregnant woman declines to be tested for HIV, her healthcare providers should explore and address her reasons for declining HIV testing.
- Pregnant women should receive appropriate health education, including information about HIV and its transmission, as a routine part of prenatal care.
- Access to clinical care, prevention counseling, and support services is essential for women with positive HIV test results.
- HIV screening should be repeated in the third trimester of pregnancy for women known to be at high risk for HIV.
- Repeat HIV testing in the third trimester is also recommended for all women in areas with higher rates of HIV or AIDS and for women receiving healthcare in facilities with at least one diagnosed HIV case per 1,000 pregnant women per year.
Last revised: 11/10/2010