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You just tested negative--now what?

for Veterans and the Public

You just tested negative--now what?

Testing negative for HIV can be a huge relief. You have made an important choice to take care of yourself by getting tested. You should be proud of that.

Remember, though, that it can take a couple of weeks (and in rare cases up to several months) for an HIV test result to be positive for HIV after someone is infected with HIV. This period of time is called the "window period." If you have had any possible exposures to HIV in the previous few months, you should get tested again in 1 to 3 months to be sure that you do not have HIV, and continue to protect yourself (for example, with condoms or PrEP) in the meantime. If you feel sick or have symptoms that might be caused by acute HIV infection (see What are the symptoms?), see your provider right away. You may need additional testing for acute HIV.

Testing negative for HIV does not mean that you are immune to the virus, so it is important to continue protecting yourself. Don't get discouraged or give up if you slip (by having sex without a condom or by sharing needles).

There are several things you can do to keep protecting your health, now that you know you are negative:

  • If you do not already see a health care provider regularly, start now. It is always a good idea to have regular checkups, and your provider will have a medical history of your health to refer to if you get sick.
  • Ask for support in staying HIV negative. There are support services that can help you stick to your decision to stay safe. Your health care provider and/or the clinic social worker should have a list of such service providers.
  • Talk with your provider about ways to prevent HIV infection. You can reduce risk of becoming infected by:
    • Not having sex
    • Using a condom every time you have sex with a partner that you don't know to currently be HIV negative
    • Taking medication to prevent HIV--this is called PrEP (preexposure prophylaxis); it's a pill taken every day to prevent HIV infection; discuss this with your health care provider if you think you are at risk of getting infected with HIV
    • For pregnant women, there are medications that will improve your health and reduce the risk to the baby
  • Injection drug users can reduce risk by:
    • Not injecting drugs
    • Never sharing needles, syringes, or works
    • Taking PrEP (preexposure prophylaxis), a daily pill to prevent HIV; discuss this with your health care provider