It is not possible to see whether a person is infected with HIV just by looking at them. After all, people can seem fine for many years after being infected although the virus is causing the body’s immune system to become weaker and weaker. An HIV infection can only be detected with an HIV test.
An HIV test provides a definite answer if you have HIV or not. If you know about the infection early enough, you can start treatment as soon as possible which will give you a good chance of a virtually normal life expectancy and a good quality of life. Last but not least, treatment that is working well can prevent HIV from being transmitted to others during sex (“Treatment as prevention”).
The test involves taking a small sample of blood which is examined in a laboratory. You can pick up the results in person a few days later. Some tests (“rapid tests”) allow you to get the results in as little as 30 minutes.
Where can you get tested?
It’s best to have an HIV test at the public health office – there’s one in every large town. You do not have to give your name there and the test is free of charge or costs between 10 and 15 euros. Some HIV/AIDS service organizations likewise offer HIV testing; you do not have to reveal your name there, either.
You can also go to a doctor’s office, but you will have to give your name there. In addition, the result will be recorded in your file.
All pregnant people in Germany are offered an HIV test.
What do the results mean?
If the HIV test is “negative”, there is no HIV infection present.
“HIV test positive” means that you have become infected. This does not mean, however, that you have or will develop AIDS. It’s best to then go to an HIV specialist doctor to discuss what is best for you and when to start taking HIV medication and how to protect others from infection.
HIV/AIDS service organizations will provide you with the addresses of HIV specialists. If you do not have health insurance, you should nevertheless contact the public health office to get assistance anyhow.
Incidentally: An HIV infection does not affect your residency status in any way. It is not a reason that could force you to leave Germany. An HIV infection can even constitute an obstacle to deportation under certain circumstances because it is a severe, life-threatening illness (more information).
Tip: Asylum seekers, persons obliged to leave Germany and persons subject to a temporary suspension of deportation are entitled to HIV therapy under the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act. If you have problems with the social security office, you should obtain advice from an HIV/AIDS service organization.