HIV Testing FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about HIV Testing

HIV testing can be stressful and frightening. Here is information to answer some common questions and concerns.

*NOTE: The Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services is a regional HIV testing center. It is NOT NECESSARY to be a resident of Boone County.

 Access other HIV testing opportunities in other counties in the region.

Why should I be tested?

  • Relief and knowledge
    • It can be a very stressful and scary feeling to think you might be infected with HIV. The tests we offer are quick and easy. Counseling is also provided to answer any questions you may have and to ensure your well being regardless of the result.
    • If we do get a positive result, we can immediately connect you with services that will provide new and effective therapies, treatments, and education to ensure a long, safe, and healthy life.
  • Pregnancy
    • If you are pregnant and HIV positive you may be able to prevent the infection of your baby by taking special medication during your pregnancy.
  • Risks for HIV
    • Unprotected sexual relations (not using a condom).
    • Use of shared syringes (needles or “works”) for injecting drugs or shared equipment for tattooing and piercing. 

Remember, it is better to know your status then to add extra stress to your life by worrying. We have helpful resources available for both positive and negative test results.

Who does the testing?

  • Testing and counseling are conducted by trained professionals who have specific training to perform this test. They can answer any questions you may have, or can refer you to those who can provide further assistance. 

What kind of test is it?

There are two types of tests:

The blood draw:

  • A small amount of blood is drawn and sent to the State Public Health Laboratory, where it is tested for antibodies to HIV. 
  • Positive tests are double-checked and then tested again using a different type of test to assure accuracy. 
  • It takes about eight (8) days to receive results, which are provided in person, by appointment.

The rapid test:

  • Our rapid test is called the Clearview HIV Stat-Pak.
  • It requires one (1) finger prick and produces an HIV test result in 15 minutes. 
  • Cannot be done anonymously.

How soon can I be tested?

  • It may take 3-12 weeks for HIV antibodies to be detectable in the blood, therefore a test done three months after the last risk activity is considered highly accurate, because it’s been known to detect up to 95% of positive cases.
  • To be sure, a test done six months after the risk may be necessary.

Won’t people know I’m having an HIV test if I go to the Department of Public Health and Human Services?

  • No. We run a wide range of clinics and health activities.
  • HIV testing appointments are made using first names only. No one else can know the reason you are here.

What is a “confidential” test?

  • As with any medical test, name and address are necessary and a form of ID is requested.
  • The blood sample is identified by number only when sent to the State Laboratory for testing.
  • Only positive test result information is sent to the Bureau of STD/HIV Prevention, Missouri Dept. of Health.
  • Statistical data is used to predict infection trends and provide justification for HIV prevention and care programs.
  • Insurance companies, employers and other government agencies DO NOT have access to testing and counseling information and results.

What about “anonymous” tests?

  • Anonymous testing does not require the disclosure of one’s name and location.
  • An anonymous appointment may be made using a fictitious first name and results are given using the unique HIV test number provided at the time of testing.
  • Anonymous testing can not be performed in outreach situations.

What if I lose my test number?

  • While it is best to retain your number card, you may receive your results using a picture ID which includes your birth date.
  • Those testing anonymously can not receive the result without the test number card.

Are copies of test results available?

  • Copies of HIV and STD test results to be provided directly to those tested also with a release signed and positive ID.
  • Confidential test results may be mailed to physicians on the written request of the person tested.
  • This request must be written at the Health Department, only by the person tested and only with that person positively identified.

Is there a cost?

  • No, there is no charge for HIV testing. It is provided free of charge by the Columbia/ Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services.

What happens if the test is positive for HIV?

  • The Health Department counselor will inform you of the result and help you to cope with this news.
  • You will be assured privacy and support to receive the result and counseled on the accuracy, medical and legal significance of an HIV diagnosis.
  • There is now a highly effective treatment for HIV, so much of the counseling is usually focused on helping the person take the next necessary steps to receive additional medical care and social support for treatment and healthy living with HIV. Referrals to Care Coordination Services, Spectrum Health Care (formerly RAIN) and other supportive services are also offered.

What about other STDs?

  • A syphilis test can be done at the time of blood testing for HIV.
  • Women who are pregnant may have a Hepatitis B test.
  • Anyone with a particular risk for Hepatitis C, such as having a history of IV drug use, someone receiving a transfusion before 1994, or who self-identifies as a “baby boomer,” can have a Hepatitis C screening test done.
  • Other STD tests and treatments are available at this Health Department, without appointment.