Translate This Page Print This Page Email a Friend Newsletter Sign-Up
Text Size : Sm Med Lg

How to Provide HIV Test Results

Negative Results
For patients with a negative test result:
  • Discuss the possibility of HIV exposure during the past two months (if patient engaged in risky behavior during that time) and possible need to test again.
  • Discuss how to prevent HIV infection, including using condoms, limiting number of partners, avoiding alcohol and drugs before and during sex, and never sharing needles, works or medication vials (e.g., hormones or steroids).
  • Explain what negative HIV test results mean. More information can be found in Patient Materials.

Indeterminate Results
For patients with an indeterminate test result:

  • Discuss the meaning of the test result (inconclusive) and offer to test again.
  • Reinforce risk reduction strategies including using condoms, limiting number of partners, avoiding alcohol and drugs before and during sex, and never sharing needles, works or medication vials (e.g., hormones or steroids).

Preliminary Positive Results
For patients with a preliminary positive test result:

If an oral fluid point-of-care (POC) or "rapid" test was used, consider testing again with a fingerstick blood POC test. Give the patient his or her HIV test results. (See Sample Disclosure Script below)

  • Discuss that while a rapid test result is more than 99% accurate, supplemental testing is still needed for confirmation.
  • Order a confirmatory HIV test (Western Blot, immunofluorescent assay (IFA) or other approved HIV antibody confirmatory test). If acute HIV suspected, order viral load or Aptima HIV-1 RNA Qualitative Assay.
  • Provide If your HIV Test is Positive information sheet. (See Patient Materials)
  • Make an appointment with an HIV provider right away. (See Provide Treatment and Referrals)
  • Proceed with plan for confirmed positive test results.
Sample Disclosure Script

Make sure the patient is in a private area.

In a calm voice, tell the patient: “The result of the HIV test came back positive.”

To clarify, say: “This means you probably have HIV.” Wait to see how s/he reacts. Unless the person had anticipated or suspected this result, s/he may be shocked and not say much.

Some people may say, “It can’t be true,” or ask if you’re sure. Some may break down and cry. Others may appear stoic or blank. These reactions are not unusual.

When the patient seems ready, make the following two points:

Confirmatory Test Needed
- Stress that the preliminarypositive result needs to be confirmed with another test. However, it is very likely (99%) that the confirmatory test will also be positive. It will take about five business days to receive these results.

HIV/AIDS is Treatable
- Emphasize that although HIV is a very serious infection, today many people with HIV are living longer, healthier lives due to new medications that keep the immune system strong.

- Reassure the patient that s/he isn’t alone – medical care, emotional support and other services are available.

Link the Patient to HIV Primary Care
If the patient agrees to treatment, you are required by law to make an appointment for care. Options include:
  • New York City HIV Care Coordination Programs
    - HIV primary care centers that offer an expanded form of HIV medical case management to improve medication adherence and optimize patient health outcomes. (See New York City HIV Care Coordination Programs provided in the kit)


  • New York City Designated AIDS Centers
    - New York State-certified, hospital-based programs that provide state-of-the-art, multi-disciplinary inpatient and outpatient care and case management for people with HIV and AIDS. Most Designated AIDS Centers include the NYC Care Coordination Program. (See Designated AIDS Centers provided in the kit)

back to top

Confirmed Positive Results
For patients with a confirmed positive test result:

Link the Patient to HIV Primary Care
If the patient agrees to treatment, you are required by law to make an appointment for care. Options include:

  • New York City HIV Care Coordination Programs
    - HIV primary care centers that offer an expanded form of HIV medical case management to improve medication adherence and optimize patient health outcomes. (See New York City HIV Care Coordination Programs provided in the kit)

  • New York City Designated AIDS Centers
    - New York State-certified, hospital-based programs that provide state-of-the-art, multi-disciplinary inpatient and outpatient care and case management for people with HIV and AIDS. Most Designated AIDS Centers include the NYC Care Coordination Program. (See Designated AIDS Centers provided in the kit)
Provide Counseling
  • HIV is a manageable disease
    Assure the patient that, with good medical care and patient adherence, people with HIV can stay healthier and live longer. 
  • Learning to cope
    Discuss ways to handle the emotional consequences of learning about a positive test result. 
  • Risk reduction
    Discuss how to prevent the spread of HIV to others. (See Risk Reduction Strategies)
  • Partner notification
    Urge patients to notify their contacts of potential exposure to HIV and to encourage them to seek HIV testing. (See Partner Notification Options) 
Pregnant Patients
  • Refer pregnant patients to an HIV primary care provider and an obstetrical provider. A NYC Care Coordination Program can help make these referrals. (See New York City HIV Care Coordination Programs provided in the kit)
  • For more information, visit hivguidelines.org.
Risk Reduction Strategies
Take a sexual and substance use history at every routine visit and provide risk reduction strategies at every visit, including:

  • Use latex or female (FC2) condom every time you have sex.
  • Never share needles or works.
  • If you’re a transgender woman, always obtain hormones from a medical provider. Never share needles or bottles of hormones or steroids.
  • Never use drugs or alcohol before or during sex. Being high makes it more difficult to remember to stay safe.
  • Always tell your partners you have HIV before you have sex, even if they
    don’t ask.

back to top