Who Should Get An Hiv Test
The CDC recommends that everyone in the United States between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once.
You should be tested more often — at least once a year — if youâre at higher risk of getting HIV, including if you:
- Have had several sexual partners since your last HIV test
- Had unprotected sex with someone who is or could be HIV-positive, including someone whose sexual history you don’t know
- Injected drugs using a needle, syringe, or other device that someone else used first
- Have had or are getting tested for tuberculosis, hepatitis, or any sexually transmitted disease, including syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, or herpes
- Are a sex worker
- Had sex with someone who has a history of any of these things
How Can I Get Tested
To get tested, you can:
- Ask your doctor to test you.
- Go to a local clinic or community health center.
- Go to National HIV and STD Testing Resources to find a testing center near you.
- Buy a test at a pharmacy and do the test at home.
Many testing centers will do an HIV test for free. Ask if there is a fee before you go for testing. In most states you do not need a parent’s permission to get tested for HIV. And you can buy the test at the pharmacy without a parent.
What Is A False Positive Test
You can get a false positive HIV test. This is when a person who doesnt have HIV tests positive.
Newer tests like the fourth generation test are more accurate, but false positive and false negative results can happen for many reasons.
False positive results can happen if:
- the testing sample is contaminated
- the lab misreads or mislabels the test
- youve been part of a HIV vaccine study
Keep in mind, testing blood versus saliva may also affect accuracy of results.
If you receive a positive result, your doctor or clinic where you were tested will recommend a second test to confirm results. This will guide next steps in the process.
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What Are The Types Of Hiv Tests
There are three types of tests used to diagnose HIV infection: antibody tests, antigen/antibody tests, and nucleic acid tests . Your health care provider can determine the appropriate HIV test for you. How soon each test can detect HIV infection differs, because each test has a different window period. The window period is the time between when a person may have been exposed to HIV and when a test can accurately detect HIV infection.
- Antibody tests check for HIV antibodies in blood or oral fluid. HIV antibodies are disease-fighting proteins that the body produces in response to HIV infection. Most rapid tests and home use tests are antibody tests.
- Antigen/antibody tests can detect both HIV antibodies and HIV antigens in the blood.
- NATs look for HIV in the blood.
A persons initial HIV test will usually be either an antibody test or an antigen/antibody test. NATs are very expensive and not routinely used for HIV screening unless the person had a high-risk exposure or a possible exposure with early symptoms of HIV infection.
When an HIV test is positive, a follow-up test will be conducted. Sometimes people will need to visit a health care provider to take a follow-up test. Other times, the follow-up test may be performed in a lab using the same blood sample that was provided for the first test. A positive follow-up test confirms that a person has HIV.
Talk to your health care provider about your HIV risk factors and the best type of HIV test for you.
Can I Safely Test Myself At Home
The OraQuick In-Home HIV Test is the only HIV test approved by the FDA that people can use to test themselves at home or in a private location. OraQuick was approved in 2012 for sale in stores and online to anyone age 17 and older.
The kit does not require sending a sample to a lab. It tests fluid from the mouth and delivers results in 20 to 40 minutes.
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How Does The 4th Generation Hiv Test Work
The fourth generation test is different because its a combination test thats more advanced. It can detect both HIV antibodies and the p24 antigen, which is associated with HIV. Testing for p24 allows earlier detection and diagnosing of acute HIV infection.
For a fourth generation test, youll have a small sample of blood drawn from a vein with a needle. You might feel a small sting from the needle. It takes a few minutes to take the sample. Once the sample is collected, itll be tested in a lab.
Results are available in a few days or in some cases, a few weeks.
Lab Tests And Why They Are Important
Before you start treatment with HIV medicine , your health care provider will order several baseline lab tests. You may start treatment or be referred for treatment before the test results are in.
Your lab test results, along with your physical exam and other information you provide, will help you and your provider work together to manage your HIV care.
Your health care provider will periodically repeat some of these lab tests as part of your ongoing HIV care to see how well your HIV medicine is working so that you can get the virus under control, protect your health, and prevent transmitting the virus to others.
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Where Can I Go For Hiv Testing
You can get tested for HIV and other STDs at your doctors office, a community health clinic, the health department, or your local Planned Parenthood health center. You might want to get your HIV test at a place that also has HIV counseling .
You can either get an anonymous” or “confidential HIV test, depending on the laws in the state that you live in. Confidential” testing means your name is on the test, and the results go in your medical records. Your doctors and insurance company may also see the results. If you test positive, your results are sent to your local health department so they know the rates of HIV in your area. But your results are protected by privacy laws, so nobody else can see them without your permission.
“Anonymous” testing means your name isnt on the test. Youll get an ID number that youll use to find out your results. Your results wont go in your medical records, and they wont be sent to your insurance company or the health department youre the only one who will know them.
STD testing, including HIV testing, isnt usually automatically part of your regular checkup or gynecologist exam you have to ask for it directly. Be honest with your nurse or doctor so they can help you figure out what tests are best for you. Dont be embarrassed: your doctor is there to help, not to judge.
Is Hiv Testing During Pregnancy Necessary
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all women are tested for HIV during pregnancy or before thinking of getting pregnant. Why? HIV can go undetected for years before it causes symptoms.
A pregnant person with HIV who is not treated can pass the virus to an unborn baby, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
With treatment, though, the chances of passing along HIV to a baby are very low. Getting treatment for the viral infection will also help ensure a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and future. The earlier the virus is detected, the better the treatment can work.
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What Does Hiv Do To A Person
HIV infects white blood cells of your immune system called CD4 cells, or helper T cells. It destroys CD4 cells, causing your white blood cell count to drop. This leaves you with an immune system that cant fight off infections, even those that wouldnt normally make you sick.
HIV initially makes you feel sick with flu-like symptoms. Then it can hide in your body for a long time without causing noticeable symptoms. During that time, it slowly destroys your T-cells. When your T-cells get very low or you begin to get certain illnesses that people with healthy immune systems dont get, HIV has progressed to AIDS.
AIDS can cause rapid weight loss, extreme tiredness, mouth or genital ulcers, fevers, night sweats and skin discolorations. Other illnesses and cancers often happen in people living with AIDS and can cause additional symptoms.
Whats a retrovirus?
A retrovirus is a virus that works backward from the way human cells do. Human cells have instructions that send a message to make building blocks for your body .
Retroviruses have their instructions written on RNA. When a retrovirus invades your cells, it changes its RNA to look like your cells instructions . Then it cuts your cells DNA and inserts its instructions into them. Your cell then acts as though the virus instructions are its own.
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What Do Your Hiv Test Results Mean
If youve just had an HIV test, you may be wondering what a positive or negative test result means. If you were tested in a health care providers office, a clinic, or a community setting, the provider or testing counselor will explain what your result means and talk to you about the next steps. If you used a rapid HIV self-test at home or another private location, the package materials will provide this information, along with a phone number you can call.
Below are answers to some of the most common questions.
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What Are The Treatments For Hiv/aids
Currently, there is no cure for HIV infection or AIDS. However, early diagnosis allows for treatment with antiretroviral therapy that can help to suppress levels of virus in your body and greatly improve your long-term health. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as the World Health Organization recommend that all individuals diagnosed with HIV infection receive treatment as soon as possible, including pregnant women. With advances in treatment, individuals with HIV infection are living longer, healthier lives.
People typically take at least three drugs from two different classes in order to prevent or minimize virus replication and the emergence of drug-resistant strains. Combinations of three or more antiretroviral drugs are referred to as highly active antiretroviral therapy or HAART. Read the Treatment section of the article on HIV Infection and AIDS for additional details.
Whats Involved In Testing For Hiv
Testing for HIV is a simple and pain-free process. It involves giving a small sample of blood or swab from your mouth. Your results will be confidential . The healthcare provider will explain the process and answer any questions you have. They are there to help you.
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How Much Will It Cost
As required by the Affordable Care Act, HIV screening is covered by health insurance without a co-pay. This includes most Medicaid programs. If you dont have health insurance, some testing sites may offer free tests or offer tests on a sliding fee scale based on income. Use CDCs Get Tested to search for free testing resources.
What Kind Of Hiv Tests Are There
Rapid HIV tests give you results in about 20 minutes. Other tests take longer because they need to be sent out to a lab. HIV tests are usually painless you just gently rub the inside of your cheek with a soft swab. Sometimes youll give a blood sample for testing.
You can test yourself for HIV using an at-home HIV testing kit. With the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test, you swab your gums and test the sample yourself. You get results in 20 minutes. With the Home Access HIV-1 Test, you prick your finger to get a small amount of blood. You mail your blood sample to a lab, and get your results in about a week. At-home tests are totally anonymous you’re the only person who will know the results. And both types of tests help connect you with counselors who can give you support and advice about treatment if you test positive.
If a rapid HIV test at a clinic or a home test shows that you have HIV, get a follow-up test to make sure the results are correct.
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How Long Do Side Effects Last
People have different experiences with side effects. For some it is mild and does not last for more than a few days while others may experience side effects for a few weeks. In general side effects from taking ARVs should not last more than 2-3 weeks. Talk to your doctor or Adherence Counsellor about managing side effects.
What Is The Hiv Test
An HIV test determines whether you have been infected with HIV.
When you get infected with HIV, the virus replicates itself and spreads through the body, and your body produces cells and particles to fight the virus.
There are different types of screening HIV tests, some that can detect both HIV itself and HIV antibodies, and some that detect only antibodies to HIV. If you have either HIV antigens or HIV antibodies, then you have been infected with HIV. The test does not tell you how long you have been infected, how sick you might be, or whether you have AIDS.
Most HIV tests require a sample of blood, though some can test fluid from inside the mouth.
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False Positives Vs False Negatives
Because STI tests arent perfect, people who design them often have to choose whether its better to have more false-positive or more false-negative results. Which is better depends on the severity of the disease and the healthcare providers ability to treat it.
Imagine, for example, that a condition has no serious long-term consequences but the treatment itself is grueling. In such cases, a false positive is worse than a false negative because it may expose a person to needless treatments that cause more harm than good.
On the other hand, if an infection is serious and requires immediate treatment, the test would need to be highly sensitive to avoid a false-negative result. Doing so can lead to a missed diagnosis. One such example is an HIV test.
How Accurate Is An Hiv Test What Is The Window Period For An Hiv Test
The current testing protocols are highly accurate but not perfect. The probability of a false result on the test depends on the test and on the person’s risk factors for getting infected. The lower the risk of getting HIV, the higher the probability of a false-positive result.
Falsely negative tests occur in people who are truly infected with HIV but have negative tests. Among 1,000 people who are truly infected, rapid tests will be falsely negative in zero to six people, depending on the test. Negative antibody tests in people infected with HIV may occur because antibody concentrations are low or because antibodies have not yet developed. On average, antibodies take about four weeks to reach detectable levels after initial infection, and falsely negative tests may occur during this so-called HIV window period. Individuals with negative tests and who had a high risk for HIV exposure should be retested in two to three months.
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Frequency And Timing Of Testing
After you start HIV treatment, not all lab tests will be conducted at every medical visit. Some will occur every few visits. Others will depend on whether you are stable on HIV treatment and doing well. View this chart about the timing of various tests and talk to your provider about what is recommended for you.
How Can Hiv Testing Help You
About 1 in 8 people in the United States who have HIV do not know they have it.The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested.
Knowing your HIV status gives you powerful information to help you take steps to keep you and your partner healthy:
- If you test positive, you can take medicine to treat HIV. People with HIV who take HIV medicine as prescribed can live long and healthy lives. Theres also an important prevention benefit. If you take HIV medicine as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load, you will not transmit HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex.
- If you test negative, you have more prevention tools available today to prevent HIV than ever before.
- If you are pregnant, you should be tested for HIV so that you can begin treatment if you’re HIV-positive. If you have HIV and take HIV medicine as prescribed throughout your pregnancy and childbirth and give HIV medicine to your baby for 4 to 6 weeks after giving birth, your risk of transmitting HIV to your baby can be less than 1%. HIV medicine will protect your own health as well.
The sooner you know your status, the better. Some people with HIV have it for years before they know it. During that time, they arent getting the treatment they need to protect their health and prevent transmission of HIV to their sexual or needle sharing partners. Thats why CDC encourages more frequent HIV testing for individuals who might have a risk for getting HIV.
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