What Is Being Tested
Human immunodeficiency virus is the virus that can cause acquired immunodeficiency syndrome . HIV screening tests detect the HIV antigen and/or HIV antibodies produced by the body in response to an HIV infection in the blood. Some tests detect HIV antibodies in saliva.
An HIV infection may initially cause no symptoms or cause flu-like symptoms that resolve after a week or two. The only way to determine whether you have been infected is through HIV testing.
If left untreated, an HIV infection can progressively destroy the body’s ability to fight infections and certain cancers. HIV weakens the immune system by infecting lymphocytes , a type of white blood cell, that normally help the body fight infections.
During the first few weeks following infection with HIV, the virus infects T-cells, making numerous copies of itself and continuing to infect more T-cells. The amount of virus and the p24 antigen level in blood can be quite high. HIV tests that detect the p24 antigen can generally identify infections in the first weeks after infection, even before antibodies develop.
About 2-8 weeks after exposure to the virus, the immune system responds by producing antibodies directed against the virus that can be detected in the blood. As the initial infection resolves and the level of HIV antibody increases, both virus and p24 antigen levels decrease in the blood. HIV tests that detect HIV antibodies can identify HIV infections about 2 to 8 weeks after infection.
Hiv Rna Test Compared To Other Tests
The HIV RNA test is a type of nucleic acid test . NATs are blood tests used to detect the genetic material of viruses and bacteria in your blood. Theyre sometimes used to screen blood donations for HIV and other conditions, such as hepatitis B.
The HIV RNA test is also called the HIV viral load test, since it can identify the viral load, or how much genetic material from HIV is in your blood. This sets it apart from other HIV tests.
According to the , there are two other types of HIV tests:
- HIV antibody tests. These tests look for antibodies created by your body in response to HIV.
- HIV antigen/antibody tests. These tests look for antibodies, but they also look for antibodies and an HIV protein called p24.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hiv Infection
Symptoms of the initial HIV infection can mimic those of influenza and other viral infections. The only reliable way to tell if you are infected is to get tested. Many people with HIV do not experience symptoms for years after the initial infection or have symptoms that are very similar to symptoms of other illnesses. For more, see this CDC web page: About HIV.
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How Soon Can Hiv Be Detected By A Blood Test
It depends on the test. Combination tests that use a blood sample drawn from a vein and detect HIV antigen and HIV antibodies can detect HIV infections in most people 2 to 6 weeks after infection. Combination tests that use fingerstick blood samples detect HIV infections about 2 to 12 weeks after infection. Blood tests that detect HIV antibody alone can detect infections in most people about 3 to 12 weeks after infection.
Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes
In order to detect undiagnosed HIV, the entire healthcare system needs to integrate HIV screening practices. Routine HIV screening can easily be offered not only in established at-risk populations, such as areas of high prevalence or in the prenatal care standards, but also in specialist offices such as dermatology, ENT, or general surgery. Widening HIV screening to include all persons ages 13-75 should not be limited to the primary care office, especially in patients who are less likely to access care in this setting.
Emergency room HIV testing is becoming accepted as an essential component of HIV detection. Non-targeted screening in the emergency department was found to have improved acceptance based on where in the patient’s process it was offered and what test was offered. Linking HIV and HCV screening has been shown to also be effective and efficient.
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Why Wait For 9
HIV is a virus that stores its genetic information in an RNA instead of DNA. This genetic information or material does not develop up slowly unlike antigens and antibodies but it is already present in your body as soon as the contraction of HIV and the viral load of the virus is usually high enough in such a way that it is detectable within 9 to 11 days.
What Is The Treatment For Hiv
If tested positive for HIV, do not panic. Keep calm and react accordingly as per the stage of your HIV infection. You are lucky if you had detected the infection at an early stage, you can get diagnosed and treated. But, there is no cure for advanced AIDS/HIV infection. Anti-retroviral drugs are used for HIV treatment. This treatment is called antiretroviral therapy. Anti-retroviral drugs help in controlling the virus and reduce the symptoms exhibited.
This therapy plays a vital role not only for the treatment of severe HIV infection but for people being treated for Hepatitis B or C, and people having low CD4 cell count.
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What Are The Advantages Of Detecting Hiv At An Early Stage
The detection of HIV from a person within two weeks after being infected is a significant milestone in the scientific community as well as the HIV-positive population. There are many advantages to early detection of HIV such as:
How Accurate Is The Test
This test is slightly less sensitive than the 28-Day HIV DUO test. So, if you choose this test we would recommend that you have a follow up HIV DUO test after waiting at least 28 days. This HIV test is available with results the same day as your sample is received in our accredited testing laboratory.
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Two Common Hiv Screening Approaches
Here we discuss two different testing approaches for HIV screening.
Screening is done to find the infection although the patient is not symptomatic.
Both approaches are widely used. Which one is used depends on test availability and the timing of sexual contact. Letâs talk about each approach in more detail.
New testing approach
The fourth-generation HIV testfor Ag and Ab is the preferred test for HIV screening and is currently widely used.
What it detects
This test can detect the antibody and antigen at the same time.
When it is preferred
The P 24 antigen can be seen a bit earlier in the disease process, which is why the accuracy of this test is better for early HIV detection than that of an Ab test.
- If the test is negative
- If the fourth-generation test is negative and done after enough time has passed since exposure, no other testing is necessary.
Old testing approach
This test is more widely available and costs less.
What it detects
The test check for HIV Ab 1 and 2
When it is preferred
This test is excellent for detecting an existing STD but not for detecting early HIV detection since early on, production of antibodies has not begun, and the test might have been performed during a time when it is not accurate.
How Accurate Is The Hiv Rna Test
When a person becomes initially infected with HIV, the body begins to replicate the HIV very fast as the immune system has yet to be compromised. If a RNA test appears to be inconclusive, a viral load test will determine whether a recent exposure actually exists. Since it is the RNA itself that contains certain codes which allows the virus to replicate itself, viral load tests are very accurate down to as low as 20 copies/milliliter.
Viral load is usually high enough 9-11 days after exposure for a positive result.
So what does this mean for you and your results? If you take your test within 9-11 days after a possible exposure, you decrease your chances of having a false positive as the HIV RNA test is not reliable before this time, 90% accurate during this window and 99% accurate around 28 days after exposure.
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When To Test After Pep
Meanwhile, for PEP, the CDC states that people should be tested for HIV immediately after completing their course of PEP medications . After this, it is recommended that they get tested again at three to six months post-exposure to fully confirm that they are HIV negative, according to Chanel Marshall, M.S., an HIV health educator with Inova Health System. However, It is always best to consult with your health care provider for an individualized plan, she notes.
All in all, its unlikely that modern-day HIV testswhether theyre HIV antibody tests, HIV antigen tests, or HIV viral load testswill be affected by taking PEP or PrEP. The best advice we can give is to follow CDC guidelines and speak to your health care provider if you are concerned.
Understanding The Hiv Window Period
What is the HIV window period?
The window period for an HIV test refers to the time between HIV exposure and when a test can detect HIV in your body. The window period depends on the type of HIV test used.
What is the window period for the HIV test I took?
- Antibody tests can usually detect HIV 23 to 90 days after exposure. Most rapid tests and self-tests are antibody tests.
- A rapid antigen/antibody test done with blood from a finger stick can usually detect HIV 18 to 90 days after exposure.
- An antigen/antibody lab test using blood from a vein can usually detect HIV 18 to 45 days after exposure.
- A nucleic acid test can usually detect HIV 10 to 33 days after exposure.
Hiv Testing Outside Of A Health Care Setting Or Lab
If you get an HIV test outside of a health care setting or lab you will likely receive a rapid HIV test.
- If the test comes back negative, and you havent had a possible exposure during the previous 3 months, you can be confident you dont have HIV.
- If your test result is positive, you should go to a health care provider to get follow-up testing. Counselors providing the test should be able to answer questions and provide referrals for follow-up testing as well. You can use the HIV.gov locator to find a health center near you.
Can Hiv Be Prevented
There is currently no vaccine to protect you against HIV, but avoiding high-risk activities such as having unprotected sex and sharing needles for injecting drugs can help to prevent its spread.
While there is no vaccine, the CDC and the World Health Organization recommend that individuals without HIV infection but at high risk for it consider taking pre-exposure prophylaxis , a daily pill to help prevent infection. For people taking PrEP consistently, the risk of HIV infection was significantly lower compared to those who didn’t take it.
If you have HIV, early diagnosis of your infection is important to prevent its transmission to others and to allow evaluation, monitoring, and treatment. Healthcare workers can protect themselves from HIV infection by following universal precautions, such as wearing gloves and avoiding needle sticks.
Post-exposure prophylaxis is another strategy for preventing HIV. PEP is taking antiretroviral medication after recent possible exposure to the virus. PEP should only be used in emergency situations and must be taken within 72 hours of possible HIV exposure. Talk to your healthcare practitioner or emergency department doctor about PEP right away if you:
- Think you have may been exposed through sex
- Think you were exposed through sharing needles or other works for injecting drugs
- Were sexually assaulted
- Are a healthcare worker and think you were exposed to HIV at work
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Get Tested Every Three Months
Whats the best time to get tested for HIV and STIs? We recommend people who are sexually active and people who inject drugs get tested for HIV and sexually-transmitted infections every three to six months.
Establishing a regular testing schedule for yourself is a great way to take charge of your sexual health. Encouraging your regular sex partners to do the same is a great way of helping your partners and the community.
If you live in San Francisco or the Bay Area, stop by any of our locations for free HIV and STI testing. A counselor will be able to recommend a testing schedule for you. Schedule tests far in advance so they become routine.
What Does The Test Result Mean
- A negative HIV test usually indicates that you do not have an HIV infection. However, if you are screened too soon, the result may be negative despite the fact that you are infected . If an HIV test is negative but recent exposure is suspected, then an HIV RNA test or repeat testing with the HIV antigen/antibody blood test may be required.
Also, a negative screening test means only that there is no evidence of disease at the time of the test. If you are at increased risk of HIV infection, it is important to have screening tests performed on a yearly basis to check for possible exposure to the virus.
- If you test positive on both the initial screen and supplemental testing, then you are diagnosed with HIV.
The CDC recommends the following testing protocol to screen for and diagnose HIV infection:
- Screen for HIV infection using a combination HIV antigen/antibody test, then
- Verify a positive with a second HIV antibody test that differentiates between HIV-1 and HIV-2.
- If results of the first and second test do not agree, then the next test to perform is an HIV-1 RNA test . If the HIV-1 RNA is positive, then the test is considered positive.
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Cost Of Hiv Rna Testing
When it comes to medical care, most people are concerned with the financial burden and whether or not their insurance can help make that cost easier on them. Before anything else, understand that no matter how much you might think HIV testing like the HIV RNA test costs, the price of good long term medical treatment is vastly cheaper the earlier a person realizes he or she is infected. In other words, definitive treatment is both more cost-effective and generally more effective the earlier a person can get access to it.
Costs will differ depending on the region where you live, the medical facility used and the type of insurance policy a person has. However, if you choose to pay out-of-pocket, the flat pricing averages around $150- $175. Though this form of testing is slightly more expensive than many others, the increase in cost is easily outweighed by the treatment benefits early detection offers.
What Is The Scientific Process Of Hiv Rna Testing
HIV RNA Testing is conducted via Polymerase Chain Reaction . PCR is a scientifically accepted method of studying genetic information from the specimen, usually a blood sample. This blood sample contains deoxyribonucleic acid and ribonucleic acid which are molecules that contain specific genetic information. The DNA and RNA in the sample are amplified by duplicating it billion times until it is large enough to have its genetic information studied in detail. Among the billions of DNA and RNA, it is checked if there is any presence of HIV RNA. HIV RNA only exists in the bloodstream of a person if they have been infected with HIV. If HIV RNA is detected in the sample, it means that the person has HIV.
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Newer Improved Hiv Tests Allow For Earlier Hiv Detection
HIV tests have improved substantially over the years, and are now easier and less expensive, with a more rapid turnaround time for results.1
Three types of HIV tests are available:
- Nucleic acid tests detects HIV ribonucleic acid
- Antigen/antibody combination tests detects HIV p24 antigen as well as HIV immunoglobulin M and immunoglobulin G antibodies
- Antibody tests detects HIV IgM and/or IgG antibodies
Following an exposure that leads to HIV infection, the amount of time during which no existing diagnostic test is capable of detecting HIV is called the eclipse period.2
The time between potential HIV exposure and an accurate test result is referred to as the window period. Improvements in testing technology continue to reduce the detection window period, and, therefore, the time to diagnosis and treatment of early HIV infection. As seen in the figure, each type of HIV test has its own testing window, with the NAT capable of detecting HIV the earliest, followed by the antigen/antibody combination test, and lastly, the antibody test.