Should I get tested for HIV?

Originally Published: December 5, 1997 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: November 7, 2008
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Alice,

My boyfriend and I have been sexually active for 9 months... He's the first guy I've ever been with this way. He's been with a couple other girls and was tested for HIV about 2 years ago. After he'd been tested, he had been with one other girl. He thinks it's a good idea if he gets tested, but because he knows I've never been with anyone else, he doesn't think I need to be tested... What do you think? I think I should be tested, just to be safe.

Dear Reader,

It's great that you are being proactive about HIV testing, it's part of being a responsible sexually active adult. Why not let your boyfriend get tested first? If he's HIV-negative (and he probably is if his past sexual experiences were safer ones), then you probably are, as well. If you'd like more peace of mind, then getting tested is a good idea. You and/or your boyfriend might also consider being tested for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, and genital warts (HPV).

By the way, your boyfriend's reasoning is a bit off; just because someone has never had a sex partner does not necessarily mean that s/he is automatically HIV-negative.  It's also important to consider when your boyfriend was tested in relation to his previous sexual experiences as it can take up to six months after an encounter for HIV to show up on a test. Plus, he was with someone after his last test — a possible risk factor where you (and he) are concerned.  Condoms are very good at preventing HIV transmission, so if you have safer sex every time you get intimate,  it's unlikely you'll contract HIV.  

For more information on HIV testing, read HIV transmission: When does it show up on a blood test?. You and your boyfriend can also search through Alice's Sexual Health archive for more safer sex, HIV/AIDS, and other STI info, and/or you can contact these organizations and agencies to get more answers to your questions:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National STD and AIDS Hotline
1.800.342.AIDS (-2437) / 1.800.227.8922
CDC National Prevention Information Network

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene AIDS Hotline
1.800.TALK.HIV (825.5448)

Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC)
1.800.AIDS.NYC (243.7692) / 212.807.6655
   AIDS Hotline

Getting tested for HIV will resolve any uncertainty you have about your status and will familiarize you with the testing facilities and process, which could be helpful if you feel the need to get tested again in the future.

Alice