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What Is An Hiv Test
An HIV test shows whether you are infected with HIV . HIV is a virus that attacks and destroys cells in the immune system. These cells protect your body against disease-causing germs, such as bacteria and viruses. If you lose too many immune cells, your body will have trouble fighting off infections and other diseases.
There are three main types of HIV tests:
- Antibody Test. This test looks for HIV antibodies in your blood or saliva. Your immune system makes antibodies when you are exposed to bacteria or viruses, like HIV. An HIV antibody test can determine if you have HIV from 312 weeks after infection. That’s because it can take a few weeks or longer for your immune system to make antibodies to HIV. You may be able to do an HIV antibody test in the privacy of your home. Ask your health care provider about at-home HIV test kits.
- HIV Antibody/Antigen Test. This test looks for HIV antibodies and antigens in the blood. An antigen is a part of a virus that triggers an immune response. If you’ve been exposed to HIV, antigens will show up in your blood before HIV antibodies are made. This test can usually find HIV within 26 weeks of infection. The HIV antibody/antigen test is one of the most common types of HIV tests.
- HIV Viral Load. This test measures the amount of the HIV virus in the blood. It can find HIV faster than antibody and antibody/antigen tests, but it is very expensive. It is mostly used for monitoring HIV infections.
Is There Anything Else I Should Know
HIV infection cannot be cured, but early diagnosis allows for treatment with antiretroviral therapy that can help to suppress levels of virus in the body and greatly improve long-term health. 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.
There is currently no vaccine to protect against HIV, but avoiding high-risk activities such as having unprotected sex and sharing needles for injecting drugs can help to prevent its spread. Early diagnosis of HIV infection is important to prevent its transmission to others and to allow evaluation, monitoring, and early treatment of the affected person.
While there is no vaccine, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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 up to 92% lower compared to those who didn’t take it.
Healthcare workers can protect themselves from HIV infection by following universal precautions, such as wearing gloves and avoiding needle sticks.
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Why Do I Need An Hiv Test
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. You may also need an HIV test if you are at higher risk for infection. HIV is mainly spread through sexual contact and blood, so you may be at a higher risk for HIV if you:
- Are a man that has had sex with another man
- Have had sex with an HIV-infected partner
- Have had multiple sex partners
- Have injected drugs, such as heroin, or shared drug needles with someone else
HIV can spread from mother to child during birth and through breast milk, so if you are pregnant your doctor may order an HIV test. There are medicines you can take during pregnancy and delivery to greatly reduce your risk of spreading the disease to your baby.
How Does Hiv Testing Work
In the early stages of HIV infection, the virus itself is difficult to detect. Rather than looking for the virus, HIV testing usually involves looking at the body’s reaction to the presence of the virus. The measure of the amount of virus in an individual’s blood stream is called the viral load.
Antibodies are produced by the body in reaction to the presence of a virus. An HIV antibody test measures the presence of antibodies in response to the presence of HIV. The most common HIV antibody tests are ELISA and Western Blot. These tests can now be performed on samples of oral fluid.
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How Much Does The Test Cost
The cost of an HIV test is usually covered by insurance without a copay, although specific costs depend on a persons insurance coverage and where the test is performed. Check with your health plan and health care provider for specific cost details.
At-home HIV tests cost below $50. Health departments and community-based organizations may provide HIV self-test kits for free or at a reduced cost.
If I Test Positive For Hiv What Follow
If you are HIV-positive, follow-up tests may include the following:
- HIV viral load testingmeasures the amount of HIV in the blood. It is performed when you are first diagnosed to help determine the status of the disease and is ordered at intervals to monitor the effectiveness of therapy.
- CD4 countmeasures the number of CD4 T-cells in the blood. It is ordered when you are first diagnosed to get a baseline assessment of your immune system and it is done at intervals to monitor therapy and the status of the immune system.
- HIV antiretroviral drug resistance testing, genotypicordered when you are initially diagnosed to determine whether the particular strain of HIV that you have is resistant to certain antiretroviral drug therapies. This testing is also ordered when treatment is changed or when there is evidence of treatment failure.
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When Is It Ordered
Several organizations recommend routine screening for HIV:
- The Centers for Disease Control , American College of Physicians , and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommend that anyone between the ages of 13 and 64 and pregnant women be screened for HIV at least once.
- The CDC and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that all pregnant women be screened. Repeat testing in the third trimester may be done for women at high risk. A woman who wants to make sure she is not infected with HIV before getting pregnant may opt to get tested
- The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that all sexually active youth be screened, and that youths between 16 and 18 years old who live in high risk areas be offered HIV testing at least once, regardless of sexual history.
For additional details on screening recommendations, see the articles for Teens, Young Adults, Adults, and Adults 50 and Up.
Annual screening is advised for those at high risk for HIV and is recommended when an individual:
- Has had unprotected sex with more than one partner since the last HIV test
- Is a man who has had sex with another man
- Has used street drugs by injection, especially when sharing needles and/or other equipment
- Has exchanged sex for drugs or money
- Has an HIV-positive sex partner
- Has had sex with anyone who falls into one of the categories listed above or is uncertain about their sexual partner’s risk behaviors
What If My Test Is Negative
If your test results are negative, your HIV tester will discuss the options to protect yourself from becoming HIV positive in the future. Options might include taking PrEP, a daily pill that helps prevent HIV infection.
If you believe you may have been exposed to HIV recently, your HIV tester will most likely recommend another test in a few weeks. It can take time for the antibodies to present themselves in your bloodstream, so a second test a few weeks later can confirm whether or not you have contracted HIV.
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Who Will Know The Results Of My Testing
It depends on where you get your testing. Testing sites have different privacy rules. Ask about privacy rules at your testing site so you understand whether anyone else will know you got tested or see your results.
If you go to an anonymous test site, only you know the results. No written record of the test result is kept.
If you go to a confidential test site, the results will go in your medical record. Positive results are sent to the state or local health department. Your insurance company will have access to your results. Depending on the state you live in, your parent or guardian may be contacted.
Hiv Tests For Screening And Diagnosis
HIV tests are very accurate, but no test can detect the virus immediately after infection. How soon a test can detect HIV depends upon different factors, including the type of test being used. There are three types of HIV diagnostic tests: nucleic acid tests , antigen/antibody tests, and antibody tests.
An initial HIV test usually will either be an antigen/antibody test or an antibody test. If the initial HIV test is a rapid test or a self-test and it is positive, the individual should go to a health care provider to get follow-up testing. If the initial HIV test is a laboratory test and it is positive, the laboratory will usually conduct follow-up testing on the same blood sample as the initial test. Although HIV tests are generally very accurate, follow-up testing allows the health care provider to be sure the diagnosis is right.
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How Can Someone Test For Other Stds At Home
People can test for other sexually transmitted diseases , such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, using home testing kits. These tests usually consist of taking a urine sample or a swab from the genital area and sending it to a lab facility for testing.
The test should be repeated if a person received negative results, but theyre experiencing STD symptoms.
Another option is to have a healthcare professional order another test to ensure that the results are accurate.
Factors That Increase Risk For Hiv Infection
Sexually active but no history of being tested for HIV.
Use of shared drug equipment with a partner whose HIV status is unknown.
Unprotected anal or vaginal intercourse with a partner whose HIV status is unknown.
Multiple and/or anonymous sexual partnering.
For men, a history of sex with other men.
Diagnosis of other STI, hepatitis B or C.
Sexual activity, sharing of drug-use equipment, or receipt of blood or blood products for people originating from, or who have travelled to, regions where HIV is endemic.
Receipt of blood or blood products in Canada prior to November 1985.
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What Happens If The Test Is Positive
If you receive a positive result, you will want to work with your healthcare provider on a treatment plan. Your healthcare provider will determine how far HIV has progressed and recommend medicines to help you manage it.
You will also want to talk about your diagnosis with your sexual partner. If you and your partner have had unprotected sex, you could have transmitted the virus to them. They should get tested, too.
How Does A Western Blot Test Work
The western blot, is similar to the ELISA in that it also detects antibodies for HIV. However, it works slightly differently to an ELISA. A western blot works by detecting antibodies to lots of specific proteins at the same time.
To do the test, HIV is split into its various component proteins which are all different lengths and thus different weights . A blood sample is then mixed with the proteins and any antibodies for HIV in the blood sample attach to the proteins in a similar way to that in the ELISA outlined above. The antibodies present are then tagged using marker antibodies .
Each sample is then added to a dip made in a special gel. The gel is then plugged into an electric current and the proteins start to move down the gel.
The heavier proteins stop quicker than the lighter ones. The more there are of each protein, the thicker and darker the stripes. The gel is then developed in a similar way to a non-digital photograph to show which proteins are present.
If there are stripes where the HIV proteins should be then the result is positive. If there are no stripes then the result is negative.
The difference between the western blot and the ELISA is that the western blot can identify antibodies for lots of different HIV proteins or antigens at the same time whereas the ELISA will only look for one at a time .
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Whats Next If The Test Is Positive
If a person gets a positive result, a qualified lab should retest the sample to make sure it was not inaccurate or have another sample tested. A positive result on a follow-up test means that a person has HIV.
Its recommended that people who test positive for HIV see a healthcare professional as soon as possible to discuss treatment options.
A medical professional can get a person with HIV started on antiretroviral therapy right away. This is a medication that helps stop HIV from replicating and can help prevent transmission of HIV to other people.
Its important to use condoms, dental dams, or other barrier methods with any and all sexual partners and refrain from sharing needles while waiting for test results or until the virus becomes undetectable in the blood.
Seeing a therapist or joining a support group, whether in person or online, can help cope with the emotions and health issues that come with an HIV diagnosis. Dealing with HIV can be stressful and difficult to discuss with even the closest friends and family.
Speaking privately with a therapist or being part of a community made up of others with the same medical condition can help a person understand how to lead a healthy, active life after diagnosis.
The Science Of Hiv And Aids
- HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, a pathogen that works by attacking the human immune system.
- HIV specifically targets CD4 cells, the bodys principal defenders against infection, using them to make copies of themselves.
- Antiretroviral drugs target specific stages of the HIV lifecycle to stop HIV from replicating.
Explore this page to find out more about , , and .
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, a pathogen that works by attacking the human immune system. It belongs to a class of viruses called retroviruses and more specifically, a subgroup called lentiviruses, or viruses that cause disease slowly. 1
HIV cannot replicate on its own, so in order to make new copies of itself, it must infect cells of the human immune system, called CD4 cells. CD4 cells are white blood cells that play a central role in responding to infections in the body. 2
Over time, CD4 cells are killed by HIV and the bodys ability to recognise and fight some types of infection begins to decline. If HIV is not controlled by treatment, the loss of CD4 cells leads to the development of serious illnesses, or opportunistic infections. In people with normal CD4 cell levels, these infections would be recognised and cleared by the immune system. 3
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Why Is Hiv So Evasive What Is The Hiv Reservoir
Although HIV can be controlled by antiretroviral therapy, it cannot be eliminated from the body. This is because HIV evades the normal immune system mechanisms for getting rid of cells infected by viruses.
HIV integrates itself into the DNA of human immune system cells and only replicates when the cell is stimulated to respond to an infection. These cells are called latently-infected cells. These cells are not recognised as infected by the immune system and killed off, allowing them to persist for as long as the cell lives.17
Some of the cells infected by HIV are very long-lasting memory T-cells. Reservoirs of latently- infected cells become established in the lymph nodes, the spleen and the gut. HIV also infects cells in the brain, but it is unclear if HIV can pass from the brain to other parts of the body. HIV may also persist for many years in macrophages immune cells found largely in tissues and in dendritic cells, which recognise infectious agents and alert other immune cells to remove them.
Latently-infected cells can proliferate without being activated and HIV may also pass from cell to cell within tissues in the gut and other reservoirs. 18 This means they evade the immune system and are not suppressed by antiretroviral drugs before infecting other cells.