Remember taking the test doesn't protect you from the virus. It only shows your HIV status at the time of your testing.
How Often To Test
Although the HIV virus shows up in most people within 3 months of exposure it can take up to six months to show up in your body. So you need to take an HIV test at least three or preferably six months after your possible exposure to be absolutely sure that you are HIV free. If of course you indulge in risky behavior between the first test and the second, you will need to take another test three or six months later.
Types Of Test
People talk about having an HIV test but actually there is more than one type of test. Most tests are done by taking a blood sample. The main two tests used are the Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay otherwise known as ELIZA and the Western Blot test. Usually the Eliza test is done first, and may even be repeated. Then if there is a questionable result the Western Blot test may be used. If both types of test are reactive then the result is positive for HIV. However, some testing centers may only use one test or the other. It can take anything from a few days to a couple of weeks to get your results. This delay can make people very anxious. So some centers may also offer the OraQuick rapid HIV test which just needs to take a swab of your saliva from your mouth. This test can give a result in as little as 20 minutes.
Take a friend with you when you go and get your results. If you turn out to have a positive result you will need someone's shoulder to cry on or hand to hold. If you, hopefully, have a negative result you will have someone to celebrate with. However, you will still need to wait until you have a second, follow up test until you can be completely sure you are HIV free.
If you have a negative test result, breathe a sigh of relief. Then resolve to change any risk taking behavior you may have been doing. Remember the best protection against getting HIV/AIDS is to only have one monogamous partner for life, but this is not very realistic for most people. Even when we want to be in a lifelong relationship, divorce can happen to the best of us. So the next best thing is to always practice safe sex by using a condom, every time you have sex. Make sure that you or your partner never take or inject street drugs, or share needles, and avoid having blood transfusions from contaminated sources.
Be guided by your testing counselor about what to do next if you have a positive result. It's not the end of the world - even if it feels like it. These days there are a variety of medications available to help HIV/AIDS sufferers. There are also many organizations that help and support HIV positive people and it is now possible to live with AIDS rather than die from AIDS.
Remember whatever type of test you have and whatever the result, you need to continue to protect yourself and others from infection.