“Could I be infected with HIV?”

This question is often asked by people who come to Hannöversche AIDS-Hilfe e.V. Reasons usually include risky situations, such as unprotected sex, condoms slipping off or other high high risk behavior. However, an HIV test can provide clarity.

If you become infected,  it is recommended that you start HIV therapy as soon as possible. This helps to protect your immune system from weakening. However, if an infection is recognized too late, the virus may have already caused serious damage to the body. This can be avoided by a testing regularly and early therapy!
HIV is usually detectable if tested (using HIV lab test) six weeks after the last high risk situation or after twelve weeks using the HIV rapid detection test.

An HIV test can also be performed anonymously.

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is very difficult to be transmitted to another body. In order to be infected, a large amount of virus-containing secretions (blood, semen, vaginal secretions, anal secretions, mother’s milk) must enter the body through an entrance portal (open wounds or mucus) and overcome the body’s defenses. Therefore, an infection will not occur if it touched intact skin.

In majority of cases, HIV is transmitted through unprotected anal or vaginal sex as well as the sharing needles for drug use. On the other hand, significantly fewer infections occur by swallowing infected sperm. 

Additionally,  HIV cannot be transmitted through kissing, stroking,  or licking etc. Also, everyday contacts, such as, hugging, sharing dishes or the toilet do not present any infection risks. Body secretions including sweat, saliva, urine or feces also do not contain sufficient HIV for transmission.

For an infection to occur, the sexual partner must be HIV-infected and untreated. Modern HIV drugs reduces the amount of HIV virus in the blood, so it is undetectable. This therefore prevents the transmission of HIV (protection by therapy). With this in mind, anal or vaginal sex without a condom with an HIV-positive partner is possible, and even children can be born uninfected.

It is now assumed that most HIV infections are transmitted by people who themselves have been recently infected with HIV and possibly do not even know anything about their infection. It is therefore all the more important to make a HIV test regularly and especially after a risky contact.


When does an HIV test make sense?

An HIV test makes sense in any case after a risky contact, for example, after unprotected anal or vaginal sex, or if the condom broke or slipped off. In that case, however, you should keep calm: Even after a real risky contact, the probability that an infection occured is still significantly low.

The modern HIV antibody tests can safely rule out an HIV infection 6 weeks after a risk contact. This only applies to the lab tests offered by family doctors or test centers. On the other hand, the HIV rapid detection test still requires 12 weeks for accuracy.

Routine checks

People with frequently changing sex partners are also recommended to test regularly for HIV every 6-12 months and to be vaccinated against hepatitis A & B. This is especially inportant for men* who have sex with men*, as HIV and all other sexually transmitted infections are more common in this group. Therefore, a regular check-up on sexually transmitted infections is recommended for gay and bisexual men.

Vaccinations against hepatitis A & B are paid for by the health insurances in Germany for “persons with high risk sexual behavior”, ie people with multiple sex partners. Also, the HIV test at the doctor is paid for by the health insurance if there was a risk contact or the sexual behavior contains high risk.

“Engagement test”

If you want to have sex without a condom with your partner, it is recommended to make an HIV test 6 or 12 weeks after the last unprotected sex. Only when both have been tested negatively, the condom can be omitted.
However, it is very important to discuss other unprotected sexual contact with your partner immediately. Condoms should then be used until an HIV infeciton is ruled out.


How to protect myself against HIV?

The safer sex rules are quite simple:

  • Anal or vaginal sex with condoms.
  • Avoid swallowing sperm
  • No blood, semen or vaginal secretions on mucous membranes
  • Kissing, caressing, jerking, licking and cuddling are safe

In fact, people living with HIV, who are under medical therapy, are not infectious any more, even when having unprotected sex. (“Treatment as prevention“)


Where can I get tested on HIV?

We recommend always making an HIV test anonymously, in connection with an extensive consultation. Many AIDS help and health services offer such a service.


Test offers in Hannover:

Of course, you can also make an HIV test at the GP. However, then the test and the result are part of your file, which in some cases can be a disadvantage in the case of an existing HIV infection. We therefore recommend that you make an HIV test anonymously.


STI check

For men* who have sex with men*, we also recommend a regular check on sexually transmitted infections.
Here are STI check-offers in Hanover:

What should I do if the HIV test is positive?

In the laboratory test a confirmation test (Western blot) is always included to confirm the reactive result. When the HIV rapid detection test shows a reactive result, the confirmation test is carried out by another blood sample taken from your vein. The result takes about 4-5 working days. However, these results are very rarely found to be “false positive”.

If the HIV antibody test is “reactive” or “positive”, antibodies against HIV have been found in your blood. This means that you have been infected with the HIV virus.

You should keep calm in this case and get informed about life with HIV. The consultants of Hannöversche AIDS-Hilfe e.V. will be pleased to arrange a meeting with you soon. You do not have to inform anybody about it at first, but speaking to a confidant might help you a lot.

In any case, an HIV-positive test result does not mean that you have “AIDS”, or that you will die from it. Nowadays, there are very good anti-HIV drugs that control the viruses in your body very effectively. These medicines are very well tolerated and guarantee a normal life expectancy with a relatively high quality of life and ability to work. Under therapy you cannot infect your partner anymore and the wish to have children is also fulfillable. Here you can find more information about living with HIV.

The medication against HIV has to be taken reliably for a lifetime, and the HIV infection has to be monitored regularly by a doctor.
In Hannover, there are very competent HIV centers, who speak English, too: