Understanding a Positive Result

Understanding a Positive Result

What does a positive result mean?

test tube of blood

If you use any type of antibody test and have a positive result, you will need another (follow-up) test to confirm your results.

  • If you test in a community testing program or take a self-test and it’s positive, you should go to a health care provider to get follow-up testing.
  • If your test is done in a health care setting or a lab and it’s positive, the lab will conduct the follow-up testing, usually on the same blood sample as the first test.

If the follow-up test is also positive, it means you have HIV (or are HIV-positive).

It is important that you start medical care and begin HIV treatment as soon as you are diagnosed with HIV. Antiretroviral therapy or ART (taking medicine to treat HIV infection) is recommended for all people with HIV, regardless of how long they’ve had the virus or how healthy they are. HIV medicine works by lowering the amount of virus in your body to very low levels. HIV medicine can make the viral load so low that a test can’t detect it (called an undetectable viral load). HIV medicine slows the progression of HIV and helps protect your immune system. If you take HIV medicine as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load, you can stay healthy for many years.  Having an undetectable viral load also helps prevent transmitting the virus to others.  For example, if you have an undetectable viral load, you have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex.

Learn more about being newly diagnosed with HIV and about protecting others.

Receiving a diagnosis of HIV can be life changing. People can feel many emotions—sadness, hopelessness, or anger. Allied health care providers and social service providers, often available at your health care provider’s office, will have the tools to help you work through the early stages of your diagnosis and begin to manage your HIV.

Learn more about living with HIV.

If I test positive for HIV, does that mean I have AIDS?

No. Being HIV-positive does not mean you have AIDS. AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV disease. HIV can lead to AIDS if a person does not get treatment or take care of their health. But if a person with HIV takes their HIV medicine as prescribed, they may stay healthy for many years, and may never be diagnosed with AIDS.

Learn more about AIDS.