How often should you take an HIV test? That depends!
The CDC recommends health care providers test everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 at least once as part of routine health care. One in seven people in the United States who have HIV do not know they are infected.
In other words, you should have an HIV test during a medical check-up—just like you have a blood test or a urine test to be sure you are healthy.
Behaviors that put you at risk for HIV include having vaginal or anal sex without a condom or without being on medicines that prevent or treat HIV, or sharing injection drug equipment with someone who has HIV. If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you should definitely get an HIV test:
- Have you had sex with someone who is HIV-positive or whose status you didn’t know since your last HIV test?
- Have you injected drugs (including steroids, hormones, or silicone) and shared equipment (or works, such as needles and syringes) with others?
- Have you exchanged sex for drugs or money?
- Have you been diagnosed with or sought treatment for a sexually transmitted disease, like syphilis?
- Have you been diagnosed with or sought treatment for hepatitis or tuberculosis (TB)?
- Have you had sex with someone who could answer yes to any of the above questions or someone whose history you don’t know?
If you continue having unsafe sex or sharing injection drug equipment, you should get tested at least once a year. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent testing (e.g., every 3 to 6 months).
You should consult your healthcare provider to see how often you should be tested.
If you or your partner plan to become pregnant, getting an HIV test is very important. All women who are pregnant should be tested during the first trimester of pregnancy. The CDC also recommends another HIV test in the third trimester of pregnancy for women at high risk of HIV, and for women who live in areas where there are high rates of HIV infection among pregnant women or among women aged 15-44.
If you have already been diagnosed with HIV and are pregnant, there are medications and treatment that can lower the chance of passing HIV to your baby. Please contact your doctor or local health department for proper care and information. For more information, see Pregnancy and Childbirth.
Frequently Asked Questions
I had sex with someone I think could be at risk for HIV, and the condom broke? What should I do?
If it’s been less than 72 hours since the condom broke, you may be able to take medication that could keep you from getting infected with HIV, even if your partner is HIV-positive. Call your doctor or your local health department immediately and ask about PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis). If it’s been longer than 72 hours, PEP will not protect you from HIV, and you will need to explore HIV testing options. (Use the AIDS.gov HIV Testing and Services Locator to find an HIV testing site near you.) If you are prescribed PEP, you will be asked to return for HIV testing at 4 to 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months after the potential exposure to HIV. Because PEP is not always effective, you should keep using condoms with sex partners while taking PEP and should not share injection equipment with others. For more, see CDC’s HIV PEP Basics.
- AIDSInfo – HIV Testing
- AIDSInfo – HIV Counseling, Testing, and Referral Guidelines
- CDC – Act Against AIDS HIV Testing Campaigns
- CDC – HIV Testing
- CDC – HIV Testing Basics
- CDC – HIV Testing in the U.S. (Fact Sheet)
- FDA – Testing for HIV
- OWH – Get Tested for HIV
- VA – Getting Tested: Info for Veterans and the Public
Last revised: 06/05/2015