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What Is HIV Testing and How Does It Work?

The only method to find out if you have HIV is to undergo HIV testing, commonly known as HIV screening.

A variety of tests are available. Examine your blood or other bodily fluids to determine if you’re infected. Most people aren’t able to detect HIV immediately away because it takes time for your body to produce antibodies and enough viruses to grow within you.

HIV Testing’s Importance

If you are with the virus, knowing out as early as possible allows you to begin treatment and feel better, allowing you to live a long and healthy life. You can also take precautions to prevent HIV transmission to others.

Pregnant women should be examined since early treatment ensures that the virus will not be passed on to the baby.

Who Should Be Tested for HIV?

According to the CDC, everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 in the United States should be tested for HIV at least once.

If you’re at a big risk of contracting HIV, you should get tested more frequently — at least once a year.

Multiple sexual partners

Have you had unprotected sex with some person who is or may be HIV-positive, including someone whose sexual history you are unaware of?
Drugs were injected by a needle, syringe, or other equipment previously used by another person.
Have had tuberculosis, hepatitis, or any sexually transmitted disease, such as syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, or herpes, or are having tuberculosis, hepatitis, or any sexually transmitted disease, such as syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, or herpes, or are having tuberculosis, he
Have you ever had sex with the purpose of obtaining drugs or cash?
Have you ever had sex with someone who has a history of any following?

Types of HIV Screening

Screening for antibodies

These tests look for a protein produced by your body between two and eight weeks after being diagnosed with HIV. Immunoassay or ELISA tests are other names for them. In most cases, they’re spot on.

Even if you’re infected, rapid versions of these blood and oral fluid tests can give you findings in 30 minutes or less. A false negative is what it’s called.

Tests combining antibodies and antigens

These blood tests are advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They can detect HIV earlier than antibody testing, and they look for HIV antigen, a virus-produced protein called p24 that looks 2 to 4 weeks after infection. Antibodies to HIV are checked as well.

In as little as 20 minutes, a fast antibody/antigen test can produce results.

Test for RNA and DNA (NAT)

An RNA test is also called this. It searches for the virus itself and can detect HIV 10 days after exposure. It is usually not the first choice due to its high cost. Your doctor may want to use it if you’re at increased risk and have flu-like symptoms.

Test kits for in-home use

In the United States, you can get tests for your blood or oral fluids, and they can be purchased in person or online. Choose a product that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In comparison to lab tests, home tests are slightly less sensitive.


You may need to schedule a lab test with your doctor. Walk-ins are welcome at some public health clinics.

A technician will draw a less amount of blood and send it to a lab for analysis. Some immunoassay tests analyze urine or fluids from your mouth (not saliva), but because these contain fewer antibodies, you may receive false negatives.

You prick your finger to get a little blood sample for home blood testing, which you then submit to a laboratory. You don’t have to provide your name when you phone to get your results within a few business days. If it’s positive, the lab will run another test.

Swab both your upper and lower gums with a swab and test the sample in a vial with home oral fluid tests. In 20 minutes, you have a result. This test gives a false negative to about one out of every 12 affected patients. If it’s positive, have it confirmed by a lab test.

Result of HIV Test

Some exams are anonymous, which means that the results are not linked to your name. Others must be kept secret: Although your information is associated with the outcome, it is protected by privacy rules.

Results of a positive test

If you get a positive test result, you have HIV in your system. Get a regular lab test to validate the results if you got a fast test. More extensive blood tests can confirm your diagnosis if you received a lab test:

Indirect immunofluorescence assay (Western blot) or Western blot
HIV-1 and HIV-2 antibody distinction

A positive HIV test does not need to indicate the presence of AIDS, the most severe stage of the illness. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) can help you from contracting HIV and AIDS, so talk to your doctor about starting it immediately soon (ART). These medications control the amount of virus in your body to the point where a test can’t detect it. They also protect your immune system, preventing AIDS from developing from your HIV infection.

Test results that came back negative

If your test results are negative, you can take precautions to avoid contracting HIV. Safe sex and pre-exposure prophylaxis are two of them (PrEP).

Your spouse could still be infected even if your test is negative. Discuss having them tested with them.

Some tests may take up to 6 months to yield a favorable result. If your test result is negative after 3 months or less and you suspect you’ve been infected, get a second test after 6 months to be sure.

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