Frequently Asked Questions about HIV testing

Anonymous HIV Testing

Heartland CARES offers FREE rapid HIV testing by appointment or on a walk-in basis at our offices in Paducah at 619 North 30th Street and at public events elsewhere as advertised on our social media channels. Results from rapid HIV tests are available in about 15 minutes; this testing includes an extensive pre- and post-test counseling session.

What should I expect when I get tested?

  1. You can get tested anytime at Heartland CARES during our normal business hours with or without an appointment.
  2. Tell the receptionist you are here for an HIV test and a testing counselor will be with you shortly. The testing counselor will explain the test and ask for your consent and if you have any questions before starting the test.
  3. Heartland CARES uses a small fingerstick blood draw, like someone checking their blood sugar, to collect a sample of blood for the test. The testing counselor will explain the test and ask for your consent and if you have any questions before starting the test.
  4. The testing counselor will collect the sample, start the test, and set a timer for 15 minutes.
  5. While you wait for the results, the testing counselor will ask you about some of your possible risk factors for HIV and help you develop a plan to reduce those risks. Once the 15 minutes have passed, the testing counselor will deliver the results and ask if you have any questions.
  6. If the test results from this first test are reactive, or “preliminary positive,” the testing counselor will perform a second test that collects a sample of fluid from your gums. Results from this test take 20 minutes. If those results are also positive, the testing counselor will link you to care immediately through Heartland CARES and set up your first doctor’s appointment.

Why should you have an HIV test?

  • Federal guidelines recommend that everyone ages 13-64 get tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime. People at higher risk, such as people with more than one sex partner in the year, people diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections, sexually active gay and bisexual men, and people who inject drugs should get tested at least once a year.
  • Getting tested for HIV can give you important information and help keep you – and others – safe. Knowing your HIV status is vital to your health. If you find out you are HIV-positive, you will be linked to medical care immediately that improves your health, prolongs your life, and greatly lowers your chance of spreading HIV to others.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between “confidential” and “anonymous” testing?
    • Confidential testing means that the results of any HIV test performed will not be revealed to anybody except designated clinic staff, and in some cases, specific public health officials. Confidential testing will usually require a person to give their details (name, age, address) to the clinic performing the test. At Heartland CARES, a person who requests anonymous testing is given a unique identifying code. No official record of that person being tested will be made and no identifying details will be passed on to public health authorities in case of a positive result.
  • What does a Reactive test result indicate?
    • Rapid HIV tests look for antibodies to HIV in the bloodstream, not the virus itself. Antibodies are a substance the body produces to try to fight off an illness. With HIV, these antibodies cannot work on their own to fight off the infection.
    • A reactive test means that antibodies that attempt to fight off HIV have been detected in the blood sample. Reactive tests are interpreted as preliminary positive results. If the initial fingerstick blood screening is reactive (preliminary positive), with your permission, the testing counselor at Heartland CARES will complete a second rapid test to collect an oral fluid sample. The results are available in 20 minutes. If the results of this test are also reactive, the testing counselor will provide you with a diagnosis of HIV, meaning you are HIV-positive. The testing counselor will link you to care immediately through Heartland CARES and set up your first doctor’s appointment.
  • What does a Non-Reactive test result indicate?
    • A non-reactive (negative) test result means that antibodies to HIV were not detected in the blood sample. However, your test may come back negative if you have been infected by HIV very recently. In most HIV tests, including the rapid tests used by Heartland CARES, there is a “window period” of about three months after an exposure to HIV when antibodies to HIV have not reached a level high enough to be detected. If you identify along with your testing counselor that you may have been infected in the past three months, you will need to be retested three months from the date of the possible exposure to be certain of your result. In the meantime, your testing counselor will suggest some measures to help keep you and your partners healthy.
  • What is a false positive?
    • A false-positive is when a test returns a preliminary positive result that is later determined (through a confirmatory test) to be inaccurate. False-positives are rare, but are a natural and expected occurrence with all diagnostic products, including pregnancy tests, cholesterol tests and cancer tests. If your test results are contradictory, your testing counselor will recommend a conventional blood test.

We're here to help.

Heartland CARES provides medical care and a number of supportive services for individuals living with HIV and AIDS and their families.