Hiv Testing Types And Lab Technologies
This chapter provides information regarding available testing technologies, approaches to testing and interpretation of results. There are many different types of HIV screening tests that are licensed for use in Canada and can vary by jurisdiction. For questions or information specific to your province or territory please contact your local Public Health laboratory.
What Is It Used For
An HIV test is used to find out if you have been infected with HIV. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS . Most people with HIV don’t have AIDS. People with AIDS have an extremely low number of immune cells and are at risk for life-threatening illnesses, including dangerous infections, a severe type of pneumonia, and certain cancers, including Kaposi sarcoma.
If HIV is found early, you can get medicines to protect your immune system. HIV medicines may prevent you from getting AIDS.
When To Contact A Doctor
Anyone who is showing symptoms of HIV should contact a doctor as soon as possible. This is especially important if the individual has recently had sexual contact with someone else or shared a needle with someone else.
HIV can remain asymptomatic for a long time. For this reason, anyone who has recently had unprotected sex and is concerned about exposure to HIV should contact a doctor as soon as they can, even if they do not have any symptoms. The same goes for anyone who has recently shared a needle.
It can be difficult to discuss the possibility of having HIV. However, without proper treatment, HIV can be life threatening. In these situations, it is very important for people to put their long-term health first and to discuss the matter with a doctor.
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How Long Does It Take To Show Symptoms Of Hiv
Some people notice flu-like symptoms 1-4 weeks after they’re first infected. They often only last a week or two. This stage is called acute or primary HIV infection.
Then, you may go for 10 years or more without further symptoms. This is called asymptomatic HIV infection. Even though you feel fine, the virus is still active in your body. And you can still give it to someone else.
Once HIV has seriously harmed your immune system, you’re at risk for diseases that a healthy body could fight off. In this stage, symptomatic HIV infection, you start to notice problems caused by those “opportunistic” infections.
After Testing Positive For Hiv How Soon Do People Start Taking Hiv Medicines
People with HIV should start taking HIV medicines as soon as possible after their HIV is diagnosed. However, before starting treatment, people with HIV must be prepared to take HIV medicines every day for the rest of their lives.
Issues, such as lack of health insurance or an inability to pay for HIV medicines, can make it hard to take HIV medicines consistently. Health care providers can recommend resources to help people deal with any issues before they start taking HIV medicines.
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What Is The Testing Process Like
You can also do home tests which are discreet and easy to use.
Many clinics offer finger-prick blood tests, but home testing kits vary. You may be directed to take a swab from your vagina or throat, give a urine sample, or give a finger-prick blood sample.
Dr Dutt assures that none of the tests should hurt and they should not take long to carry out. They can be done privately in your home or with a professional, depending on what’s comfortable for you.
Depending on the type of test, results can take a few minutes, or a few days to come back. If your first test is positive, a second blood test will need to be carried out to confirm the result.
If your test comes back positive, you’ll be referred to a specialist HIV clinic for some more tests and a discussion about your treatment options.
Scientists Have A Few Theories About Why You Can Still Test Positive After You Feel Better
Health experts have a few guesses as to why some people may test positive for days, even weeks after they recover.
The first is that the COVID-19 test is detecting remains and traces of the virus, but not the live, infectious virus itself. Its been seen before that the remnants of the virus are detected but not the live, infectious virus, according to Singer.
Its possible that the immune system has destroyed the virus and youre just seeing lingering pieces of its genetic material, and thats what youre detecting, Singer said.
There is also the rare event where someones test produces a false positive, or a positive result when in actuality they dont have the virus, according to Singer. False positives arent common, but they do occur from time to time, mainly due to a specimen mixup or accidental contamination in the lab.
Health experts also suspect prolonged positives may be linked to deficiencies in the immune system.
Take Mark Jorgenson, for example, who was aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship mid-February when one of the first COVID-19 outbreaks outside of Wuhan struck. Upon returning to America, Jorgenson who takes immunosuppressant drugs after two kidney transplants tested positive for COVID-19 on Feb. 23.
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Causes Of Hiv Infection
HIV is found in the body fluids of an infected person. This includes semen, vaginal and anal fluids, blood and breast milk.
It’s a fragile virus and does not survive outside the body for long.
HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat, urine or saliva.
The most common way of getting HIV in the UK is through having anal or vaginal sex without a condom.
Other ways of getting HIV include:
- sharing needles, syringes or other injecting equipment
- transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding
The chance of getting HIV through oral sex is very low and will be dependent on many things, such as whether you receive or give oral sex and the oral hygiene of the person giving the oral sex.
Letting Partners Know You Have Hiv
If you have just been diagnosed with HIV, it will likely be a difficult time. You might still be struggling to come to terms with diagnosis.
During this time, it is important to let any sexual or injecting partners know they may have been exposed to HIV as soon as you can, so they can be tested and offered PEP if appropriate.
You do not have to do this alone. Your doctor or the Department of Health and Human Services Partner Notification Officers can help you through this process and ensure your identity is not revealed.. Both groups can provide information, support, and guidance for people living with HIV.
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A Viral Load Test Will Let You Know If You Are Undetectable
If youre living with HIV and want to know if youre undetectable, the right test for you is Similar to nucleic acid tests to detect HIV infection, HIV viral load tests measure the number of copies of HIV in a milliliter of your blood. Its recommended that people living with HIV getHIV viral load tests generally every 3 to 6 months, in addition toother lab tests that measure your CD4 count and more.
The bottom line is that if youre living with HIV and have an undetectable viral load, you will still test positive for HIV if you get tested. But, this is expected, and doesnt mean that your treatment is not working or that you arent undetectable. As always, check with your HIV care provider if you have questions about what HIV test is right for you, or what types of tests will give you the answers you need to best care for your health.
Early Signs And Symptoms Of Hiv
Some people experience flu-like symptoms at the start of an HIV infection. These early HIV symptoms usually develop within 2-4 weeks in an infected person and may last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. This early stage of the infection is known as an acute HIV infection.
Possible early symptoms include:
- Night sweats
- Mouth ulcers
Itâs worth keeping in mind that such early symptoms can also be caused by other health conditionsânot just HIV. In short, if youâre experiencing these symptoms, it doesnât necessarily mean that you have HIVâwhich is why STI testing and consulting with your healthcare provider can be helpful next steps to take.
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Symptoms Of Hiv Infection
Most people experience a short flu-like illness 2 to 6 weeks after HIV infection, which lasts for a week or 2.
After these symptoms disappear, HIV may not cause any symptoms for many years, although the virus continues to damage your immune system.
This means many people with HIV do not know they’re infected.
Anyone who thinks they could have HIV should get tested.
Some people are advised to have regular tests as they’re at particularly high risk.
Planning For Hiv Testing
Providing extended counselling, while preferred, may act as a barrier to testing for both the care provider and the testing client. The considerable resources and time required to conduct extensive risk assessments and pre- and post-test counselling have limited the ability of care providers to offer HIV testing. Behaviour-based risk assessments may also deter individuals from accessing testing, as such practices may involve revealing sensitive personal information. Both providers and clients may feel uncomfortable discussing such topics and, consequently, may avoid testing. The result is “missed opportunities” to diagnose those unaware of their HIV infection and link them with the treatment, care and support they need.
Providing sufficient information and supportive resources in conjunction with HIV testing does not necessarily require expertise in counselling or therapy. The level of support required in any given testing situation is highly dependent on the type of test and the testing client. While some clients may require comprehensive counselling, others may only need an abbreviated discussion supplemented with information resources such as brochures or websites.
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Hiv: A Brief Overview
HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is a sexually transmitted virus that spreads through exposure to certain body fluidsâlike genital secretions or blood. HIV transmission can also occur from a mother to a child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.
HIV attacks and impairs the bodyâs immune cells, which weakens the immune system and can eventually progress to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome if it isnât treated. AIDS can be a life-threatening condition, particularly if HIV treatment is not initiated promptly, which is why HIV testing is crucial for protecting your health.
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What Happens If I Test Positive
If the result from an initial HIV test is positive, a healthcare professional will order follow-up testing to learn if the result is accurate.
If the first test was conducted at home, a healthcare professional will draw a sample of blood to test in a lab. If the first test was done in a lab, follow-up testing may be conducted on the same blood sample at the lab.
If the second test result is positive, a healthcare professional can help explain the treatment options for HIV. Early diagnosis and treatment can help improve the long-term outlook and reduce the chances of developing complications from HIV.
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Do I Still Need To Worry About Other Sexually Transmitted Infections
Neither HIV treatment nor PrEP prevents other sexually transmitted infections, or STIs.
Ways to reduce the risk of STIs include having both partners tested, limiting the number of sexual partners and using condoms. Vaccines are available to prevent some STIs, including hepatitis B and human papillomavirus .
Appendix A: Ethical And Professional Considerations
Policy concerning the ethical and professional roles and responsibilities of care providers is informed by the providers’ respective institutional code of ethics as well as the professional colleges under which they are governed.
The following is designed to complement, not supersede, existing codes of conduct or jurisdictional health policies and regulations or any applicable laws and regulations of the jurisdiction.
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Appendix C: Hiv Transmission Risk
This appendix is condensed from a more detailed technical report, HIV Transmission Risk: A Summary of the EvidenceFootnote 3 which synthesises the scientific evidence on the risk of HIV transmission through sexual activities, injection and other drug use, and mother-to-child transmission. Over 200 references formed the basis of the review, based on a search of the literature for the period between 2001 and March 2012 Footnote 4. The findings from this large body of evidence demonstrated the difficulties inherent in quantifying the risk of HIV transmission, in part due to the role of behavioural and biological co-factors, including viral load and the presence of co-infections, in increasing or decreasing the risk of transmission.
Introduction And Guiding Principles
A request was made by the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Committee on AIDS for the Public Health Agency of Canada to develop guidelines on HIV testing that reflect the realities facing care providers and their clients, as well as advances in HIV testing policy and practice. To inform the development of this guide, the Agency commissioned a literature review and consultations with key stakeholders, including people living with HIV/AIDS and other affected populations, academics, nurses, physicians, professional associations, non-governmental organizations, policy-makers, community workers, and legal and ethical experts. As a result, the recommendations outlined in the guide are based on the most up-to-date evidence and expert opinion.
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What Are The Tests For Detecting Hiv
Various tests may be used for HIV detection:
- HIV antibody test: This test detects the antibodies produced in the body in response to HIV.
- Antigen test: This test can be done at an earlier stage than an HIV antibody test. It measures a protein called p24 antigen, present in the virus and produced in high amounts after the infection.
- Nucleic acid test : It is also called an RNA test. It is a very specific test that looks for the virus itself and can detect HIV as early as about 10 days of infections.
- In-home test kits: Although less accurate than the laboratory-based tests, home-based kits have the advantage of testing in the privacy and comfort of the home. Only FDA approved home-based kits should be used.
- Viral culture: This involves using the patients sample and growing the virus in the lab. It takes longer to get the results and is not the most preferred test for HIV.
What Do The Results Mean
If your result is negative, it can mean you don’t have HIV. A negative result may also mean you have HIV but it’s too soon to tell. It can take a few weeks for HIV antibodies and antigens to show up in your body. If your result is negative, your health care provider may order additional HIV tests at a later date.
If your result is positive, you will get a follow-up test to confirm the diagnosis. If both tests are positive, it means you have HIV. It does not mean you have AIDS. While there is no cure for HIV, the disease can be effectively controlled with medicine. The medicine used to treat HIV is called antiretroviral therapy . ART can significantly reduce the amount of HIV in the blood. People with HIV who take ART before the disease gets too advanced can live long, healthy lives. If you are living with HIV, it’s important to see your health care provider regularly.
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What Happens If My Test Is Positive
If you test positive for HIV, it is important to remember that with treatment you can live a long, healthy life. In fact, with early treatment, people with HIV can live about as long as people that are not infected.
A team approach will help you get the medical care and support that you need. Start by talking to your doctor or the counselor or social worker at the testing site. He or she can help you with suggestions on how to talk to your parents or guardians and how to find a health care provider who’s an HIV specialist. By starting treatment as soon as possible, you can stay healthy and learn to live well with HIV.
After I Begin Hiv Treatment How Long Does It Take For The Risk Of Sexually Transmitting Hiv To Become Effectively Zero
There is effectively no risk of sexual transmission of HIV when the partner living with HIV has achieved an undetectable viral load and then maintained it for at least six months. Most people living with HIV who start taking antiretroviral therapy daily as prescribed achieve an undetectable viral load within one to six months after beginning treatment.
A persons viral load is considered durably undetectable when all viral load test results are undetectable for at least six months after their first undetectable test result. This means that most people will need to be on treatment for 7 to 12 months to have a durably undetectable viral load. It is essential to take every pill every day to maintain durably undetectable status.
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Should You Consider Preventive Medication
How quickly a person is able to see a healthcare professional after exposure to HIV can significantly affect their chances of contracting the virus.
If you believe youve been exposed to HIV, or have a high risk of being exposed to HIV, visit a healthcare professional within 72 hours. You may be offered an antiretroviral treatment called post-exposure prophylaxis , which can reduce your risk of contracting HIV. PEP is typically taken once or twice daily for 28 days.
PEP has little or no effect if taken more than