Are you having back pain with any of the following?

  • Severe pain, weakness or tingling in your leg(s).
  • Difficulty stopping urination or loss of control of bladder or bowels.
  • Unexplained fever, nausea or vomiting.
  • A history of cancer or unexplained weight loss.

We understand that you are experiencing one or more of the health issues that might be impacting your back pain.

We recommend that you discuss these health issues with your doctor before proceeding with this program.

Once you are cleared by your doctor to do this program, we hope it helps you find relief from your back pain.

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Charles Hare, MD

Infectious Diseases

As your doctor, I believe that empowering you with information will allow you to be more proactive in our partnership in maintaining your health. MyDoctorOnline will enable us to communicate better. You can e-mail me, check your lab results, make an appointment, access our many online programs or get information about a particular health topic - any time that's convenient for you.

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San Francisco Medical Center
Appt/Advice: 415-833-2200

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Kaiser Permanente recommends that adolescents and adults who may have been exposed to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) get tested immediately. Individuals should get tested annually if there is continued risk.

HIV can be hidden in the body for many years without causing illness. In fact, it is estimated that as many as 25 percent of people infected with HIV are unaware they are infected with the virus. Taking an HIV antibody test is the only way to know if you have the virus.

The earliest possible identification and treatment of HIV is the most effective way to manage living with HIV or AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), for a lifetime. This test is available from your primary care physician, or you can call the facility Health Education Department or Telephone Advice line. Getting tested does not imply that you have any particular risk factors for HIV. In fact, testing based on typical risk factors alone, like injection drug use and sexual practices, may miss some cases of HIV.

Additional References:

Why It Is Done

It is important to identify HIV as early as possible so you can get access to potentially life-saving treatments and prevent spreading the infection to your partners.

People entering new sexual relationships should know their HIV status and those of their partners in order to prevent becoming infected themselves and to prevent spreading HIV. 

Prenatal screening is recommended for all pregnant women since identification and treatment of HIV in pregnancy can prevent infection of the newborn.

We encourage you to ask us about any concerns and questions you may have about HIV infection and testing.

Additional References:


Symptoms of HIV infection are difficult to identify early on or may seem similar to the flu. Many people have no symptoms for many years and do not know they are carrying the virus. The earlier you take an HIV test, the earlier we can determine if you have the infection and begin treatment.

Below are the common flu-like symptoms that may indicate HIV:

  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Rash
  • Fatigue

If you have been HIV positive for many years but did not know it, you may have more severe symptoms, such as a high fever, weight loss, or extreme fatigue.

What You Can Expect

It is normal to feel nervous or anxious about getting your blood tested for HIV. We want to make sure you understand why you are getting tested, your risks of exposure to HIV, and how the test works. We encourage you to talk to us about your concerns and ask any questions you may have.

After you decide to have an HIV test, we will order the test and you will go to the lab to have your blood drawn, similar to any blood test. It can take up to 2 weeks for the test results to come back from the lab.

Please know that HIV testing is confidential. This means we will not share results with anyone else unless you allow us, or if required by law (HIV is a reportable health condition in California). If you prefer anonymous testing, which means you do not have to give your name and only you will know your results, visit the National HIV and STD Testing Resources website (see "Additional References") or call your county health department to find a location.

Additional References:

How It Is Performed

When a person is infected with HIV, their body responds by making antibodies to protect them and fight the virus. Blood tests for an HIV infection determine if antibodies to HIV are present, rather than detect the virus itself.

The HIV test is done like any other blood drawn test in the laboratory. The technician will identify a vein in your arm, apply a rubber band around your arm, and draw blood through a needle into a tube. After the blood draw, the lab technician will apply pressure where the needle drew your blood and then give you a band-aid. You can remove the band-aid after a couple of hours.

It can take up to 2 weeks for the test results to come back from the lab.

Types of Tests

First, the lab will test your blood for HIV antibodies using a test called ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay).

If HIV antibodies are found, we test the same sample of blood again with a test called a Western Blot to confirm an HIV infection.

This double testing helps to ensure the first test is accurate and that you have the HIV virus in your blood.

It is important to know that once HIV enters the body, it takes an average of 2 to 12 weeks, or up to 6 months, for HIV antibodies to be present in the blood and show up in an HIV test. This means that if you test HIV negative, but were exposed more recently than 6 months ago, you may still have HIV but have not yet developed antibodies. We recommend you discuss additional testing with us.

At this stage, we do not test your blood for viral load, or how much HIV is in your blood. We only test blood for viral load for people who have previously tested positive for HIV antibodies. Testing for viral load is used to help determine when a person with HIV should start medications to treat their HIV infection. Viral load testing is also done to confirm that HIV treatment is effective.

In addition to the complete HIV blood test done at Kaiser Permanente, there is also what is known as the "rapid" test that can be done with blood or an oral swab (saliva.) Any positive rapid test must be followed by a confirmatory complete blood test. For this reason we use the ELISA and Western blot blood tests and do not perform rapid tests in our clinics.

Risks and Complications

Risks and complications of a blood test are rare and minimal. After the blood draw, the lab technician will apply pressure where the needle drew your blood and then give you a band-aid. You can remove the band-aid after a couple of hours.

If you notice any signs of swelling, redness, or the bleeding doesn't stop at the place where the needle punctured your skin, please give us a call as soon as possible.

Because an HIV test means you may be infected with a life-threatening illness, it is common to worry about your test during the time you are waiting for the results. It may be helpful to confide in someone who is close to you about what you are going through. Also, if you have any questions or need some support during any of this process, feel free to contact us.


When the test is ordered for you, we will also arrange for you to receive your test results. HIV test results cannot be mailed to you and are not available in your online medical record.

Results are either HIV negative or HIV positive:

HIV negative. The test did not find any HIV antibodies in your blood. It is important to understand that if you were exposed to HIV in the past 6 months, the antibodies may still be developing, even if your results are HIV negative.

HIV positive. The test found antibodies to HIV. If you test positive for HIV antibodies in your blood, it means you have an HIV infection. Next, you will be referred to your primary care doctor or an HIV specialty clinic doctor. Getting early medical care when you are HIV positive is an important part of living a long healthy life.

On a rare occasion, a test is inconclusive and we will discuss additional testing.

It is important to know that once HIV enters the body, it takes an average of 2 to 12 weeks, or up to 6 months, for HIV antibodies to be present in the blood and show up in an HIV test. This means that if you test HIV negative, but were exposed more recently than 6 months ago, you may still have HIV but have not yet developed antibodies.  We recommend you discuss your need for additional testing with your medical provider.

What to think about 

Whatever your results, you should think about how this information affects your life.

If you test HIV negative, you may be relieved, but you may also be concerned about remaining HIV negative. It is important to practice safer sex and learn what else you can do to stay HIV negative.   Talk with your doctor if you have questions about protecting yourself from HIV.

If you were exposed to HIV within the past 6 months, antibodies to the virus may not yet be present in your blood. You should be tested again at the end of 6 months to confirm a negative result.

If you test HIV positive, we will refer you to one of our HIV specialty clinics to discuss next steps and treatment options. Important to living a healthy life with HIV or AIDS is regular medical care with an HIV specialty doctor and learning what you can do to stay healthy with HIV. You should begin your treatment plan as soon as you obtain your test results and review them with us.

There is currently no cure, but with medications it is possible to slow down the progression of HIV and live a full and healthy life. If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, let us know right away. There are antiviral drugs that significantly decrease the likelihood of passing HIV on to your baby.

If you test HIV positive, it is important to practice safer sex and take other steps to prevent the spread of HIV. We can help you get the information and support you need to help protect your health and the health of others.

Additional References:

When to Call Us

Although rare, if you develop any swelling, redness, or the bleeding after your blood is drawn for your HIV test, please call us immediately.

Your doctor is available to talk about any concerns or questions you have while waiting for your HIV test results or after you receive your results.

If you think you were exposed to HIV within the last 72 hours, let us know immediately. We can provide you with medications that help decrease the likelihood that you will become HIV positive. These medications are most effective when started as soon as possible after exposure. For immediate assistance, call to speak with an advice nurse who can arrange for you to get care as quickly as possible. Advice is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder.

This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.

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