An HIV test is the only way to know if you or a partner has HIV. Free or low-cost tests are available for anyone 12 and older at NYC Sexual Health Clinics, regardless of immigration status. You do not need to have consent from a parent or guardian to get tested.
Getting tested and knowing your HIV status is the first step toward taking care of your health.
The time between when a person may have been exposed to HIV and when a test can tell for sure whether they have HIV is called the window period. The window period varies from person to person and depends on the type of test used to detect HIV.
Recent HIV infections can result in symptoms that may seem similar to cold or flu symptoms, such as fever, rash and sore throat. If you are experiencing these symptoms after a possible HIV exposure, be sure to tell your health care provider you are concerned you have an HIV infection, not just a cold or flu.
You can find free or low-cost HIV testing locations near you by:
You can also purchase a kit to test yourself at home (PDF).
During the COVID-19 pandemic, you can request a free home HIV test kit (PDF).
You should ask your medical provider how often you should get tested for HIV.
Generally, if you are having sex or using street or injectable drugs, you should get tested at least once a year. People in the the following groups should be tested every three to six months:
If you think you were exposed to HIV, start taking emergency post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) immediately. PEP can stop a new HIV infection if you start taking it within 72 hours of exposure. To get started on PEP right away, go to a clinic or emergency room, or call the 24/7 NYC PEP Hotline at 844-3-PEPNYC (844-373-7692).
If you get an HIV test after a potential HIV exposure and the result is negative, get tested again after the window period for that type of test to be sure. If your health care provider uses a test performed by a laboratory on blood from a vein, you should get tested again 45 days after your most recent exposure. For other tests, you should get tested again at least 90 days after your most recent exposure.
An HIV infection takes a few days to become established. Ten days after exposure, go to a clinic or hospital and ask for a test for new (“acute”) HIV infection. These types of tests are available to eligible patients at NYC Sexual Health Clinics.
While you wait for your test results, avoid having sex. During an acute infection, people have a very high level of virus in their bodies and can easily pass HIV to others.