How can one get tested for HIV?
Taking an HIV test is the only sure way one can learn of infection from the virus. The most common test to detect HIV is the antibody test which looks for the virus' antibodies in the blood. The test has an accuracy level of 99% after the testing window has elapsed – the period after which HIV is detectable in the blood. The testing window can range anywhere between 2 weeks and 12 weeks after initial exposure to the virus.
When can one get tested for HIV after exposure?
The period after which one can test for HIV depends on the type of test. For the 4th Gen antibody test, one should test after three weeks of exposure as this allows the HIV antibodies time to develop in the blood and be detectable. However, with the HIV RNA blood test, one can test after 10 to 12 days of possible exposure and receive accurate results.
Who should get tested for HIV?
Anyone can be infected with HIV. However, there is certain high-risk behavior that increases the chances of infection. These include unprotected vaginal and anal sex, a new sex partner, multiple sex partners, and men who have sex with men. HIV can also be transmitted through sharing injecting equipment and from an infected mother to her child during childbirth. Any person who suspects exposure to the virus should get tested.
What do the HIV results mean?
A negative result shows the absence of HIV in the blood. However, if one gets tested too soon after initial exposure, the virus may not be detected in the blood. A confirmatory test after three months should accompany a negative result. During this period, all forms of behavior that increase the risk of exposure should be avoided.
A positive result indicates infection from the virus and is usually confirmed by immediate re-testing. If the antibody test was initially used, other follow-up tests are used for confirmation of positive results. Having HIV infection does not necessarily imply that one has or will contract AIDS. Administration of anti-retroviral therapy helps slow down the virus' progression to later stages and can prolong one’s life.
How long does it take to get HIV results?
The HIV antibody test results take less than 30 minutes. However, with the HIV RNA test, results can take a few days but normally less than a week depending on the laboratory. Follow-up test results for confirmation of a positive HIV result can also take up to a few days. If the tests are positive, it is not an indication that one has AIDS. However, immediate treatment should be undertaken to prevent the virus from progressing to later stages of infection.