How Can I Get Tested For Hiv
There are a few different ways you can get access to HIV screening:
- A blood or saliva sample can be collected in a healthcare practitioner’s office or a local clinic and sent to a laboratory for testing. Certain testing centers provide either anonymous or confidential HIV testing and counseling. You can also contact your state or local health department to find out where testing may be available. To find a testing site near you, visit the National HIV and STD Testing Resources webpage.
- In these same settings, there may be a rapid test available, with results that are generated in 20 minutes or less.
- There is a home test for HIV that has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration . It uses a saliva sample and results are available in about 20 minutes.
The home test has two limitations:
1. The saliva test is less sensitive than a blood test, so the home test may miss some cases of HIV that a blood test would detect.2. The home test is not as accurate when it is performed at home by a lay person compared to when it is performed by a trained healthcare professional. However, the convenience of home testing might encourage some people who might otherwise be reluctant to go to a healthcare practitioner or clinic to learn their HIV status.
What To Expect From An Hiv Rna Test
There’s nothing you need to do to prepare for an HIV RNA test.
To perform the test, a healthcare provider will use a needle to collect a blood sample from a vein, usually in your arm.
Results from the test may indicate:
- No virus in the blood
- A low viral load, which may indicate that treatment is working
- A high viral load, which may indicate that HIV treatment is not working well, isn’t being taken, or that you may be at a higher risk for AIDS
After the test, you may experience slight discomfort and possible bruising where the needle was inserted into the arm.
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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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.
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.
- The basics
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How Confidential Are Hiv Test Results
Your HIV status, like other medical conditions and test results, is protected by the HIPAA Privacy Rule and cannot be shared with friends, family, or employers without your written permission. Your HIV status may be shared with your healthcare providers who have a “need to know” in order to treat you. Also, in order to determine the incidence of HIV and to provide appropriate prevention and care services, all new cases of HIV are reported to state and local health departments.
Certain testing centers provide either anonymous or confidential HIV testing and counseling. You can also contact your state or local health department to find out where testing may be available.
Can You Use The Hiv Antibody Test To Detect Hiv In Newborns
No. Because maternal antibodies are transferred from mother to baby and stay in the newborn’s system for 6-12 months, a different test must be used. A test that detects the genetic material, either an HIV RNA or HIV DNA test, is required.
Conditions: HIV Infection and AIDS
Screening: Pregnancy, Newborns, Teens, Young Adults, Adults, Adults 50 and Up
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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.
What You Need To Know
- A viral load test measures the number of copies of the virus in your blood. It is reported as copies/ml.
- Viral load is a sign of how active HIV is in your body. A lower number means the virus is less active.
- You will have your viral load tested regularly.
- Even low levels of HIV in the body can cause inflammation and cause damage. This is one reason why early treatment is now recommended.
- If you are taking ART and have an undetectable viral load you are significantly less likely to transmit HIV to others
- If you are taking HIV treatment, a consistent increase in your viral load may be a sign that the virus is developing resistance to one of your anti-HIV drugs. You and your doctor will discuss what to do next.
McLay D, Knowles Z
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Who Should Get Tested For Hiv
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 13 to 64 years of age get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. As a general rule, people at higher risk for HIV should get tested each year. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from getting tested more often, such as every 3 to 6 months. If you are over 64 years of age and at risk, your health care provider may recommend HIV testing.
Factors that increase the risk of HIV include:
- Having vaginal or anal sex with someone who is HIV positive or whose HIV status you do not know
- Injecting drugs and sharing needles, syringes, or other drug equipment with others
- Exchanging sex for money or drugs
- Having a sexually transmitted disease , such as syphilis
- Having sex with anyone who has any of the HIV risk factors listed above
Talk to your health care provider about your risk for HIV and how often you should get tested for HIV.
Screening For Hiv In Pregnancy
If you’re pregnant, you’ll be offered a blood test to check if you have HIV as part of routine antenatal screening.
If untreated, HIV can be passed to your baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding. Treatment in pregnancy greatly reduces the risk of passing HIV on to the baby.
Page last reviewed: 22 April 2021 Next review due: 22 April 2024
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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.
Where Can People Find More Information About Hiv Testing
There are several resources for people interested in the facts of HIV testing.
- The national HIV, STD, and hepatitis testing site Get Tested helps visitors find free, fast, and confidential testing.
The CDC website is also an excellent source of information: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/testing.html.
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What Happens When You Go For A Test
Before you test, the healthcare worker will ask about your sexual health and why youve decided to test. This will help them offer the best services and advice. The healthcare worker will explain which test you are using and how you will get your result.
During the test, they will take a small sample of blood from your finger or your arm, or a swab from your mouth. This is when you rub the testing pen along your gums to collect cells from your mouth.
After the test, they will explain how you will get your results and answer any questions.
What Are The Three Different Hiv Blood Tests
There are three kinds of HIV tests: the HIV Antibody test, HIV Antibody/Antigen combination test, and HIV Nucleic Acid RNA test. Each HIV test has its own testing window and each test detects HIV by looking for different specimens in a blood sample. Test windows represent the incubation periods or time frames that have to elapse in order for the virus or immune response to be detected via the various testing methods.
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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.
When To Get Tested
Seek medical advice immediately if you think there’s a chance you could have HIV. The earlier it’s diagnosed, the earlier you can start treatment and avoid becoming seriously ill.
Some HIV tests may need to be repeated 1-3 months after exposure to HIV infection, but you should not wait this long to seek help.
A GP or a sexual health professional can talk to you about having a test and discuss whether you should take emergency HIV medicine.
Anti-HIV medicine called post-exposure prophylaxis may stop you becoming infected if taken within 72 hours of being exposed to the virus.
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What Is The 4th Generation Hiv Test
The fourth generation HIV test, also called an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay test, is a more complete screening that can identify acute HIV. This is the time when the virus is multiplying rapidly and youre more likely to pass the infection.
In the first few weeks after exposure to HIV, your body produces an antigen known as p24. This protein is only present in people who have acute HIV infection. It triggers your immune system to respond.
The fourth generation tests can identify both HIV-specific antigen p24 and HIV antibodies with a blood sample.
The fourth generation tests require a blood sample thats sent to a lab for testing. Blood testing done by a lab is the most accurate type of test.
There are many products approved for fourth generation testing, including:
- ADVIA Centaur HIV Ag/Ab Combo Assay
- Elecsys HIV Combi PT
- Genscreen ULTRA HIV Ag-Ab
- VITROS HIV Combo Test
The healthcare clinic or doctors office you visit for an HIV test can tell you more about the exact test they use.
tests that can test for the presence of HIV. HIV testing can be done by drawing blood from a vein, a finger stick, or taking an oral swab of fluid.
Tests can measure antibodies, antigen/antibody , and theres also a nucleic acid test . The NAT test can identify HIV and viral load . It can tell if you have HIV within around 10 to 33 days of exposure.
Older tests like the third generation tests arent reliable until about 3 months after exposure to the virus.
How Hiv Rna Tests Compare With Other Hiv Tests
There are some key differences between HIV RNA tests and other available HIV tests, such as when you can expect results, the type of sample needed, and where the test can be performed.
It’s important to consider the context of each of these tests and the goal of performing them. Different tests have different performance characteristics. A molecular test is not necessarily more accurate than other tests.
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Why Is Viral Load Important
The viral load is a measure of how active HIV is in your blood. The virus kills white blood cells called CD4 cells, which are an important part of your immune system. When the viral load is high then the CD4 count goes down, the immune system weakens and you are more likely to become sick.
When you start anti-HIV treatment , the viral load test is used to measure how well your treatment is working. One of the goals of ART is to have an undetectable viral load, so the immune system can begin to repair itself. You should have a viral load test every three to six months. The test results are used to monitor how well your HIV treatment is working and whether you may need to change the drugs you are taking.
We now know that even low levels of HIV in the body can cause inflammation which can damage your body. It is recommended that people start treatment as early as possible after they have been diagnosed. This helps reduce the damage that can be caused by HIV-related inflammation.
We also know that people who are engaged in care, taking ART and have an ongoing undetectable viral load are substantially less likely to transmit HIV to others. In fact studies show that people with an undetectable viral load do not pass HIV to their sexual partners.
How Do The Tests Work
Most HIV tests use a blood sample, either from a blood draw or finger prick. Others use saliva , but this is a little less accurate than blood tests.
Some HIV tests look for the virus itself. But most look for the antibodies for HIV. Antibodies are part of the immune system and fight infections. When someone is infected with HIV, the body creates antibodies to fight HIV.
Testing results may be available that day or can take longer come back.
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What Support Is Available
If you receive an HIV diagnosis, you can find help. Your healthcare provider can recommend support groups and counselors.
If someone tells you they are HIV-positive, they are telling you because they trust you. The time right after diagnosis can be very tough. You can support them in many ways:
- Be a friend. While they may not be ready to talk about their diagnosis right away, show them you care by treating them as you did before.
- Listen. Your friend may just need someone to listen to their concerns and fears. Be there for them.
- Learn about the disease. The reference section of this article has additional information to learn about the condition.
- Encourage them to seek treatment. Your friend may not realize they have options available. They do, and they can get treatment. Help them find it and stick to it.
- Get help for yourself. While it will be a challenging time for your friend, you may need some support too. Talk to others a counselor, for example about any concerns or anxieties you may have.
How Is The Test Used
HIV tests are used to screen for and diagnose HIV infections.
Different types of tests may be used for HIV screening: