Delivering Test Results
For Positive Results
Patients’ responses to a positive HIV test can vary greatly. To help patients understand and process test results, please consider the following:
- Hold the session in a private area.
- Communicate the test result in a direct, neutral tone.
- Patients may have questions about
- HIV infection and transmission,
- How patients can reduce the risk of transmission to their partners, and
- HIV disclosure to partners (and how the Health Department partner service can help notify their partners).
It’s important that patients be linked to HIV care before they leave the office.
- Provide a referral, including the name and contact information of a physician or clinic.
- Ensure that a follow-up appointment is set up before they leave the office.
- Encourage the patient to contact you with any questions.
These steps are critical as this is often the time when patients drop out of care.
Follow this link to view short video vignettes that demonstrate a framework for informing a patient that his or her HIV test is positive.
After the appointment:
- Document test results in the medical record and include a summary of what was discussed, an assessment of the patient, and referrals for services.
- Submit an appropriate report to the State or local health department for a positive test (for more information about reporting, go to Testing Policies and Laws).
For Negative Results
For patients who have likely not been exposed and do not require a confirmatory test, delivery of a negative result means that they should take steps to stay negative. These steps include:
- Practicing mutual monogamy with a partner known to be HIV- negative.
- Using condoms every time they have sex, especially for anal or vaginal sex.
- Not sharing needles and other drug equipment.