HIV Testing

1 What is an HIV Testing?

The test that determines whether you are infected with HIV which is a virus that weakens your immune system leading to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is called human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing.

Some HIV test will look for evidence of the virus itself and some will check for antibodies that your immune system produces in reaction to HIV infection. This can produce results in about 20 minutes.

2 Reasons for Procedure

Here are the most common reasons to undergo HIV test.

To slow the spread of HIV infection you must have HIV testing because a lot of people are unaware that they have been infected with HIV so they will be fewer precautions to take measures in preventing the spread of the virus to others. Treatment with drugs that may delay the progression to AIDS is the result of the earlier diagnosis.

All people ages 13 to 64 years old should be tested for HIV according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This can be done through community HIV testing or during a visit to the clinic or hospital.

Pregnant women are most important to be tested because they can pass this to their babies. During pregnancy and delivery, taking medications to combat HIV virus greatly reduces the risk that you will transmit the virus to your baby. At least one HIV test for all people ages 13 to 64 years is recommended by the CDC but if you are at high risk of infection, yearly testing is recommended.

Consider testing if yearly and before having sex with a new partner if you:

  • are a man who has sex with men
  • have had unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with more than one's sexual partner or with an anonymous partner since your last screening
  • have been diagnosed with tuberculosis or a sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as syphilis hepatitis
  • use intravenous (IV) drugs including silicone, steroids or hormones have had unprotected sex with someone who falls into any of the above categories

Also, consider testing if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, have been sexually assaulted.

3 Potential Risks

There are no potential risks for HIV testing.

4 Preparing for your Procedure

Consult your doctor if you want to prepare for the HIV test. Some of the public or government clinic or health center might allow you to simply walk in for HIV testing.

There are no special preparations for HIV testing.

5 What to Expect

Read on to learn more about what to expect before, during, and after your HIV test.

By taking a sample of cells with a swab from inside your cheek for the presence of antibodies to the virus or by testing your blood is how HIV is diagnosed, and also urine samples can be tested but the results are less accurate.

It takes time for your body to produce antibodies to the virus so these tests are not accurate immediately after infection.

In most cases, people develop antibodies to the HIV virus within three to six months of infection. If your result is positive, it will require follow-up testing to establish an HIV diagnosis and if both of them are positive it means that you are HIV-positive.

Some rapid HIV tests can produce results in about 20 minutes but others mostly take up about a few days to a few weeks.

The rapid tests are highly accurate and these tests look for antibodies to HIV using a sample of your blood that usually fingers prick or drawn from a vein or fluids that are collected on a treated pad that is rubbed on your lower and upper gum.

The home testing options include:

  • Collecting an oral fluid sample at home and using a kit to test it yourself.
  • Mailing a blood sample to a testing center and calling in for your results.

Both methods offer confidential counseling and anonymity and referral to follow-up testing sites if your test results are positive. Some tests can detect HIV infection earlier before antibodies are detectable in standard HIV testing.

From the virus or for proteins that develop within the first few weeks after infection, these can evaluate your blood for genetic material.

You will also still need standard antibody testing later to confirm results because false positives and false negatives are possible.

It may cost more than the standard HIV testing and may not be widely available if you will have the tests that detect HIV infection before you have developed antibodies to the virus.

6 Procedure Results

A negative test result means you do not have HIV or it is soon yet to tell. You could test negative for HIV antibodies because your body hasn't had time to create them yet if you were only recently exposed to HIV.

You might want to be retested again. There are treatments for HIV/AIDS offering improved and extended quality of life even if there is no cure.

Early treatment can help you stay well and delay the onset of AIDS. A person who is diagnosed with HIV/AIDS can have a near-normal life expectancy if he is well treated.

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