HIV test is used to detect Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
This virus causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome in serum, saliva, or urine. Human Immunodeficiency Virus can infect anyone who has sex, including heterosexuals, bisexuals, homosexuals, or other forms of sex. Therefore test can be beneficial for everyone.
The sooner a person learns that he has HIV/AIDS, the sooner he may be able to seek treatment and lead a normal life. Any kind of negligence can reduce life expectancy and also put other people at risk. Human Immunodeficiency Virus tests should be done regularly.
What is HIV test?
There are several types of tests, that test – whether you are infected or not by examining blood or other body fluids. But most tests do not detect HIV immediately, because it takes time for the body to make enough antibodies to the viruses it produces.
There are mainly three types of tests:
- Antibody Tests – Under this, HIV is tested in blood or oral fluids. Antibodies are disease-fighting proteins that the body makes to react against infections.
- Combined test (antibody and antigen test) – This detects both types of HIV (antibody/antigen) in the blood. The combined test can detect Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection earlier than the antibody test.
- Nucleic Acid Tests – This test checks for HIV in the blood. This test is suitable to check for Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection (7 to 28 days) after a person is infected. The nucleic acid test is very expensive and is not done routinely.
Why it is done?
This test is one way to make sure you are not infected with HIV.
Knowing your HIV status gives you concrete information that helps you and your partner stay healthy.
- If you have a positive test result, medicines may be taken to treat HIV. With these medicines you can stay healthy for many years and also reduce the chances of transmitting this disease to your partner.
- If you are pregnant, you should get an HIV test so that you can start treatment immediately if you become infected with HIV. Pregnant women with HIV should start taking medicines early in pregnancy, as it can protect the baby from getting infected.
How to prepare yourself for HIV test
Getting advice about the test before getting it done helps you understand the test results and get information on how to protect yourself from the virus. The consultant can address your query in these terms –
- What is HIV test and how is it done?
- What is AIDS, How is HIV spread?
- Ways to prevent the spread of HIV,
- Confidentiality and anonymity of test results,
- Meaning of possible test results,
- Who can tell you about your test results?
- Information about the use of medicines if you have signs of Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection.
During the procedure
Typically, a doctor or technician takes a sample of blood and sends it to a laboratory for testing.
There are rapid test options available for this blood test, such as home test kits, which can give results within 30 minutes but can also have inaccurate results. The sample for this test is taken out at home. To remove the sample at home, the finger is cleaned with alcohol and a few drops of blood are removed by pricking the needle.
After HIV test
Antibody tests that are sent to the laboratory usually take one to three days for their results. However, if this test is done at home with a home test kit or in a laboratory, the result and duration of the test may vary. If the test result is positive, it may take time to get the results from the laboratory, as one more test may be done to ensure the presence of Human Immunodeficiency Virus antibodies. Western Blot Tests are done in only one day.
It is very important to get advice before this test. A negative result does not indicate a recent Human Immunodeficiency Virus exposure, nor does it mean that your immune system is fighting Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Some practices that can transmit Human Immunodeficiency Virus include having unprotected sex with an infected person or sharing your needles or syringes with them.
What are the risks of HIV test?
Many people who undergo this test do not have any issues. Although the risks during blood removal are quite minor, they can include the following –
- More bleeding,
- fainting or spinning of the head,
- Hematoma (collection of blood under the skin)
- Infection (there may be even a slight risk of infection due to a puncture of the skin)
- Needle injection at several places to find the vein.
What do HIV test results mean?
Generally, a ‘negative result’ of a test means that you are not infected. But a negative result of an HIV test does not mean that you cannot get the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
This is because it depends on the ‘window period’. The window period is a period of time, the period from ‘the probability that a person has been exposed to HIV’ until the test determines ‘whether or not to have HIV’.
The window period varies from person to person and the type of HIV. If you get tested for HIV after potentially being exposed to Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the test result may come back negative. You should get tested again after the window period to be sure whether you have been infected or not.
If you know that last time the Human Immunodeficiency Virus result was negative, then this time you just have to make sure whether the result is negative this time also. (If you have not been exposed to HIV again after the last test)
- Several tests are done to confirm the presence of HIV, if one test after the other is also giving positive results, it means that you have Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
- If you’ve had a rapid screening test, a number of tests are done after that to make sure the result is accurate. If the blood test was done in the lab, then many tests are done there with the same blood sample.
- As soon as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus positive result comes, it is very important to seek medical help and treatment as soon as possible.
When to get HIV test
How often you should have this test done, depends on your circumstances. If you have never been tested for HIV, you should have at least one Human Immunodeficiency Virus test. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you get tested at least once a year if you are at risk of contracting the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
The possibilities of Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection can be due to the following reasons:
- Having sex with multiple partners,
- Having sex with an Human Immunodeficiency Virus positive person or someone who is not known to have Human Immunodeficiency Virus status,
- Sex between one man to another,
- Use of illegal injectable drugs and steroids,
- Sharing your needles and syringes with others,
- Having sex for money,
- Treating or testing for hepatitis, tuberculosis, or sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis.
Other indications for getting an HIV test:
- People who are at high risk of spreading Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection should get an HIV test done once a year. The test is recommended for anyone 13 to 64 years of age and of any health condition, regardless of risk factors for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
- This test is also done during pregnancy to check for Human Immunodeficiency Virus positive status in pregnant women. Treatment for HIV during pregnancy reduces the chances of the baby being exposed to Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
- Babies born to women with HIV are tested to make sure they haven’t been infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
- People who donate blood or donate any body part, are tested for Human Immunodeficiency Virus before donating.
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