An HIV test is a test that shows if you have been infected with HIV. When a person is infected with HIV, his or her immune system tries to fight the virus by creating antibodies. Antibodies are one of the body’s tools for fighting infections. An HIV test looks for the presence of HIV antibodies. If HIV antibodies are present, the person is HIV-infected. The most common test for HIV is done using a vial of blood. However, a rapid test can be done using only a finger stick sample of blood. The rapid test takes only 20 minutes and is used as a screening tool for HIV. If the rapid test comes back positive, a person needs to take a blood test to confirm the results. more
Who Should be Tested
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that you should consider being tested if:
- You are between ages 13 to 64.
- You are sexually active.
- You have never had an HIV test and are in a sexual relationship.
- You have had multiple sex partners.
- You have ever shared syringes or drug-injecting materials (such as cotton, water, or workers).
- You are a gay or bisexual man.
- You are being treated for/have ever had a sexually transmitted disease. If you get an STD you are more likely to get HIV than someone who is STD-free. This is because the same behaviors and circumstances that may put you at risk for getting an STD can also put you at greater risk for getting HIV. In addition, having a sore or break in the skin from an STD may allow HIV to more easily enter your body.
- You are pregnant, to reduce the risk of passing the virus on to your baby. We recommend HIV testing as a routine test during pregnancy. Without treatment, an HIV-infected woman has about a 1-in-4 chance of infecting her baby during pregnancy or delivery. Medical treatment can reduce this to about a 1% chance. more
HIV counseling, testing, and referral services are available through family planning agencies and other health centers in Rhode Island.
People who are sexually active should get checked at least once a year, even if they don't have any symptoms. There are many options for getting tested for HIV and STDs in Rhode Island, including:
- Talk to your primary care doctor;
- Go to the Miriam Hospital STD Clinic, which has regular walk-in hours.
- Learn about RIDOH's TESTING 1-2-3 program.
- Request a free at-home HIV test kit from AIDS Project Rhode Island.
- Go to an urgent care center in Rhode Island;
- Visit a Community Health Center Express Clinic (you don't have to be an established patient). These include:
- Go to Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island;
- Go to a CVS Minute Clinic for testing.
- Many community organizations and clinics that have traditionally offered rapid HIV testing in Rhode Island are now offering safe, confidential testing services with proper COVID-19 safety precautions at their testing sites. Others are offering in-home tests that can be sent to your home. Learn more
Free rapid testing
Mon.- Friday 10:30- 3:30pm
Appointment not needed, but highly recommended
557 Broad St., Providence RI 02907
Free at-home HIV tests
Visit www.aidsprojectri.org/athome, call 401-831-5522, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a test be mailed to you.
- Open Door Health
In-clinic, by appointment only
7 Central St., Providence RI 02907
- Planned Parenthood
On-site, by appointment only
175 Broad St., Providence RI 02903
- Project Weber Renew
Free, on site rapid testing
Every Tuesday 12:30- 3:30pm
640 Broad St., Providence RI
- Rhode Island STI Clinic (The Miriam Hospital)
On-site, rapid testing available by appointment only
Wednesday and Fridays 1-4 p.m.
180 Corliss Street, Providence RI 02904
Free At-Home HIV Tests
Call 401-861-6191 to request that a test be mailed to you.
- You can find more information about STDs, locate free condoms, find health services, and explore testing options by downloading the RIghtTime app.
- If you are in high school, talk to your school nurse about where to get tested or your school-based health center
- Contact or visit Open Door Health’s Express Screening Clinic.
- Contact the Infectious Disease Clinic at Roger Williams Medical Center in Providence.
HIV tests are either anonymous or confidential. Both anonymous and confidential testing sites maintain the highest degree of privacy.
Anonymous testing is when you choose to get tested at a funded community-based rapid testing site. When you have the test done at an anonymous site, you are given a private code number. No one asks your name. You are the only one who can tell anyone else your result. If you are HIV positive and had an anonymous test, it is important to seek medical care immediately.
Confidential testing means you give the testing site your name. Your record will be kept secret from everybody except medical personnel. You should ask who will know the result and how it will be stored. If you have your HIV antibody test done confidentially, you can sign a release form to have your test result sent to your doctor. Confidential test results may be put in your medical record. Like all your medical information, your HIV test results cannot be given to anyone without your written permission. If you have the test done in your healthcare provider’s office, hospital, clinic, or any other facility, your test results are confidential.
HIV tests are covered by most health insurances. In addition, many testing sites offer no or low cost testing. Please check with the site for specific cost information.
A window period is the time between when a person is infected and a positive test result occurs. Generally it takes one to three months (and possibly up to six months) following infection before antibodies to the virus are at a level in the blood to be detected. Because the HIV test is based on the presence of antibodies, the HIV test may be negative in an infected person during the window period. If you have engaged in behaviors that may have exposed you to HIV, but have tested negative, your healthcare provider may ask you to repeat the test later after the window period is over, or they may order a viral load, which can identify the virus in a newly infected person.