An HIV test can show whether you have been infected with HIV or not.

After somebody is infected with HIV, antibodies form in the blood. These antibodies can often be reliably detected after six weeks, and usually after three months at the latest.

For the test to determine reliably whether you have been infected with HIV, you should wait at least six weeks after being in a HIV risk situation – for some tests even three months. Ask a doctor whether you can take the test after six weeks.

The test will go like this:

  • The doctor will take a blood sample from you and send it to a laboratory.
  • In the laboratory, your blood will be tested for antibodies and components of the virus.
  • The doctor will receive the result of the lab test about a week later.
  • The doctor will tell you the results and discuss with you what you can do now.
Doctor taking a blood sample from a woman.

Rapid test

If you do not want to wait a week for the test result, you can also have a rapid test done. This test gives you faster results, but is not as accurate. So these tests will not show whether or not you are infected with HIV until three months after the risk situation.

  • The doctor will take a blood sample. After 30 minutes you will get the results.
  • If no HIV is found, you definitely do not have HIV in your blood. So you do not have an HIV infection.
  • If HIV is found in your blood, a second test must be done to confirm the result and be absolutely certain.
  • You will receive the result of the confirmation test and a detailed consultation about a week later.

Self-testing

It has recently become possible for you to buy an HIV test in Germany and test yourself for HIV. To do this, you collect a small amount of your own blood. You can see the results after just 15–30 minutes. These tests, too, can only give you a reliable answer about whether you have HIV or not after three months.

Some self-tests may say that you are HIV-positive, even if you are not infected. You should therefore only use self-tests that bear the CE mark and are authorized for use in Europe. You can find more information on HIV self-tests (in German) at www.pei.de/hiv-selbsttests.

Important!

Whichever type of test you use: if the result is positive, a second (confirmation) test must be done by a specialist doctor. Only then can you know for sure whether you are really HIV-positive or whether the test has produced a false result. If you are HIV-positive, the doctor will do more tests and you will be given HIV drugs.

Talk to a doctor

You can talk to a doctor completely openly. A doctor is not allowed to give any information to anyone else without your permission, not even to your family or your partner. The Doctor is required by law not to talk to others about you (confidentiality).

If you want to take the test anonymously (without giving your name), you can go to the health department or an HIV/AIDS counselling centre in your city. The health department also has language assistants to help you to communicate. The consultation and the test in the health department are often free of charge.

You will find out the results of the test during the consultation. There you can ask all your questions and get answers from the doctor.

Man talking to a health professional

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