I Tested Positive For HIV – Now What?

Interpreting the results of a rapid “reactive” HIV test

If your rapid HIV test result is reactive, it means that the test indicates that HIV antibodies were found in your blood or oral fluid sample. Anyone whose result is reactive to a rapid HIV test must have a second (or confirmatory) test done. This is a more accurate test, and it is done to confirm, or check, the results of the rapid test. It takes longer to get the result of this second test, sometimes as long as two weeks.

If you have not yet had this second test, ask your doctor for a list of places that offer confirmatory testing.

HIV and AIDS – Their Meanings

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is the most serious outcome of HIV infection. Being HIV positive is not the same as having AIDS, but it means that you may develop AIDS in the future.

HIV attacks your immune system, gradually impairing how it functions. Your immune system protects your body from harmful germs like viruses or bacteria. Over time, if your immune system becomes seriously damaged by HIV, your body loses its ability to fight certain infections and cancers. AIDS occurs once the immune system has been significantly damaged. You will need to have more medical tests to determine how strong your immune system is and if you have AIDS.

A positive HIV test is scary news, but it is not a death sentence. Many people live full lives with HIV, and are alive and well many years after getting infected. A positive HIV test result is an important medical message. Finding out that you have HIV gives you the chance to get the medical care you need, take control of your health, and slow or prevent some of the possible health effects of HIV.

Getting Medical Care for HIV/AIDS

If your confirmatory HIV test comes back positive, you need to find a doctor who specializes in HIV treatment, and see this doctor regularly for check-ups of your immune system. Unless you have an advanced form of HIV disease, this care is mainly preventive – to keep the disease from getting worse. You do not need to stop seeing your regular doctor – they can talk with your HIV doctor about the best way to take care of your medical needs. You can find HIV Specialty Care at the following locations:

The Immunology Center at The Miriam Hospital: 401-793-2928

Roger Williams Medical Center: 401-456-2437

Rhode Island Hospital: 401-444-1678

Thundermist Health Center of Woonsocket: 401-767-4100

Family Health Services Health Center: 401-943-1981

Coastal Medical: 401-781-2400

For other information about being HIV+ visit the HIV Q&A page. To learn about services provided by APRI for people who are HIV+ visit the Overview of Services.