What is HIV testing ?
HIV testing shows whether a person is infected with HIV. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection.
HIV testing can detect HIV infection, but it can’t tell how long a person has been infected with HIV or if the person has AIDS.
Why is HIV testing important ?
Knowing your HIV status can help keep you and others safe.
If you are HIV-negative:
Testing shows that you don’t have HIV. Continue taking steps to avoid getting HIV, such as using condoms during sex and taking medicines to prevent HIV if you are at high risk of becoming infected with HIV (pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP).
If you are HIV-positive:
Testing shows that you are infected with HIV, but you can still take steps to protect your health. Begin by talking to your health care provider about antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART helps people with HIV live longer, healthier lives. ART also reduces the risk of transmission of HIV. People infected with HIV should start ART as soon as possible.
Who should get tested for HIV ?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 13 to 64 years old get tested for HIV at least once. People at high risk for HIV infection 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.
Should pregnant women get tested for HIV ?
CDC recommends that all pregnant women get tested for HIV as early as possible during each pregnancy. Women who are planning to get pregnant should also get tested.
What are the types of HIV tests ?
There are three main types of HIV tests: antibody tests, combination tests (antibody/antigen tests), and nucleic acid tests (NATs).
Antibody tests check for HIV antibodies in blood or fluids from the mouth. It can take 3 to 12 weeks for a person’s body to make enough antibodies for an antibody test to detect HIV infection.
Combination tests (antibody/antigen tests) can detect both HIV antibodies and HIV antigens in blood. A combination test can detect HIV infection before an HIV antibody test. It can take 2 to 6 weeks for a person’s body to make enough antigens and antibodies for a combination test to detect HIV infection. We offer a combination test during your annual physical.
NATs look for HIV in the blood. NATs can detect HIV infection about 7 to 28 days after a person has been infected with HIV. NATs are very expensive and not routinely used for HIV screening.
Should an HIV test be repeated ?
A person’s initial HIV test will be either an antibody test or a combination test. If the initial test result is positive for HIV infection, then follow-up testing will be done to make sure that the diagnosis is correct. If the initial test result is negative and the test was done during the window period, re-testing should be done 3 months after the possible exposure to HIV.
How long does it take to get the results of an HIV test ?
The rapid combination test performed in our office can produce results within 30 minutes.
Is HIV testing confidential ?
HIV testing is confidential which means that your HIV test results will include your name and other identifying information, but only people allowed to see your medical records will see your test results. HIV-positive test results may be reported to local or state health departments to be counted in statistical reports. Health departments remove all personal information (including names and addresses) from HIV test results before sharing the information with CDC. CDC uses this information for reporting purposes and does not share this information with any other organizations.