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HIV - the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). This virus attacks a person’s immune system. After a few days, the virus damages the immune system enough to make it very difficult to fight illnesses. An HIV test is used to detect the antibodies formed 3 weeks to 12 weeks after exposure.
The other name for the HIV test is human immunodeficiency virus antibody test.
What are the test parameters included in the HIV 1 & 2 Antibodies test?
There is only one parameter.
An HIV test analyses the presence of the HIV virus, HIV antigens, and HIV antibodies. If these substances are found, the test returns a positive result for HIV.
There are three types of HIV tests available.
Antibody test: An antibody that is produced by the body after an HIV infection. It may take weeks for the body to manufacture antibodies, so HIV antibody tests may only detect HIV 3 to 12 weeks after infection.
Antigen/antibody test: Usually, the antigens are foreign substances that activate an immune response. The antigen appears in the body and produces antibodies, so HIV antigen/antibody tests may detect an HIV infection earlier than an antibody test, within 2 to 4 weeks of becoming infected.
An HIV viral load test: HIV viral load test looks for the quantity of HIV virus in the blood. In addition to analyzing an HIV infection, viral load testing can also detect how much of the virus is in the blood. Although this type of testing may detect an HIV infection earlier than the other HIV tests, it is very expensive and is only used when someone has any symptoms or possible exposure to HIV.
An Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The HIV virus is of two types: HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is found in AIDS patients, AIDS-related complex patients, and those people who are at high risk of getting affected by AIDS. The HIV virus may be transmitted by sexual contact, exposure to blood or blood products of infected patients, or transfer of infection from an AIDS-infected mother to the fetus.
When a patient gets infected with the virus, it attacks the immune system called CD4 and combines with antibodies to use them for making a large number of copies inside the body of the patient.
Patients who fall under the risk of HIV-1 or HIV-2 infection are screened for HIV-1 or HIV-2 antigen or antibody screening tests.
Reactive: > 1.0
Borderline: > 0.9 and < 1.0
Negative: < 0.9
HIV infection might initially cause no symptoms or cause flu-like symptoms which resolve after a week or two. The only way to evaluate whether a person has been infected is through HIV testing.
If HIV is not detected early and treated, it might become a simmering infection that causes symptoms for a decade or more. If the infection is not treated properly, eventually symptoms of AIDS emerge and begin to progressively worsen. Over a period of time and without treatment, HIV destroys the immune system and leaves a person’s body vulnerable to debilitating infections.
Detecting and diagnosing HIV early in the course of infection is essential because:
It allows for an early treatment plan which slows the progression to AIDS.
An individual may become aware of their status and modify their behavior so as to prevent the spread of disease.
A pregnant woman can be under treatment that would help to prevent her from passing the disease to her child.
A few different types of testing options are available for HIV screening:
A combination of HIV antibody and HIV antigen tests is the recommended screening test for HIV; this is available only as a blood test.
HIV antibody testing - all HIV antibody tests are used to detect HIV-1 and some tests have been developed that may also detect HIV-2. These tests are available as blood tests or as an oral fluid of tests.
P24 antigen testing -is done alone without the antibody test only in rare cases when there is a question about interference with an HIV antibody test.
Regardless of the type of screening test used, a positive result requires frequent follow-up with supplemental testing to establish a diagnosis of HIV test.
No special preparation is required. Fasting is not required.
This test requires a blood sample.
A healthcare provider, who is also called a phlebotomist, usually performs blood draws, including those for HIV 1 and 2 tests, but any healthcare provider trained in drawing blood can perform this task. Usually, samples are sent to a lab where a medical laboratory scientist prepares the samples and performs the tests on analysers or manually.
You might expect to experience the following during the blood test or a blood draw:
You sit comfortably on the chair.
They will disinfect the puncture site with an alcohol swab to minimize the risk of infection.
Once the phlebotomist has located a vein, they disinfect the area with an alcohol swab.
They will insert the needle into your vein to draw a blood sample. They may feel like a small pinch.
After they insert the needle, the required amount of blood will be drawn into a test tube.
When they draw enough blood for the test, they’ll remove the needle and hold a cotton ball or gauze on the site to stop any bleeding.
They apply a band-aid over the pricked site, and the blood collection is finished.
This process takes less than five minutes.
Once, a phlebotomist will note down the clotting time and the same will be sent to the laboratory, where reports will be shared with you.
Blood tests are done commonly, and they don’t carry any significant risks. You can have a slight pain like an ant bite when the needle gets inserted, and a small bruise may develop there.
At Orange Health, bleeding time test reports are available within 7 hours.
Interpreting test results
HIV test results are reported as positive, negative, or borderline. Results of HIV tests should be interpreted with caution, as follow-up testing is often done and necessary for patients who must take into account the test’s window period.
A window period is a time between when a person gets infected with HIV and when a test may detect the infection. No test may detect HIV immediately after infection, and all HIV tests have a window period. Usually, the length of the window period varies from test to test, ranging from about 2-12 weeks to 3 months.
A negative HIV test result means that HIV antibodies or antigens have not been detected in the test samples. If a person has had no potential exposure to HIV within the test’s window period, they are been considered negative for HIV infection. If a person has had potential exposure within the test window period, the HIV test must be repeated after they are past the window period.
Positive test results of an HIV test need to be confirmed through follow-up testing. Laboratory testing is conducted on the second test on the same blood sample as the first test. If the person receives a positive result on a rapid test, the healthcare professional will schedule a second confirmatory test to be done. Positive results of HIV tests must be confirmed in other laboratory or health care settings. If the follow-up HIV test result is also positive, it is considered to have HIV positive.
Intermediate results on an HIV test occur when an initial screening test is positive and a follow-up test is negative. Your doctor might order a more detailed HIV viral load test for additional confirmation.
Reactive: > 1.0
Borderline: > 0.9 and < 1.0
Negative: < 0.9
The normal ranges can vary slightly among different laboratories. Some of the labs use different measurements or might do tests on the different samples. Speak to your healthcare provider about the meaning of your specific test results.
HIV Western Blot, HIV RNA Qualitative PCR. HIV Viral Load
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Frequently Asked Questions on HIV Test
HIV should be taken when you are pregnant or planning for pregnancy. If you have had any unprotected sex, if you are diagnosed with hepatitis B or C, tuberculosis, or any other sexually transmitted diseases, annual screening may be advised for those who are at high risk for HIV infection like having an HIV sex partner, multiple sexual partners, and sharing needles.
Usually, regular blood tests cannot detect the presence of HIV in the body. Only when you are performing specialised tests such as screening for HIV antigens and antibodies at the time, can HIV disease be diagnosed.
An HIV-negative result does not mean that you do not have HIV. That is because of the window period, the time between HIV exposure and when a test may detect HIV in your body. If you get an HIV test after a potential HIV exposure and the result is negative, get tested again after the window period for the test you took. If you do the test again after the window period, have no possible HIV exposure during that time, and the result is negative, you do not have HIV.
HIV 1 and 2 are the two types of HIV, where HIV 1 is the most widespread type globally and HIV 2 is the less pathogenic one. ELISA is the most popular and commonly used test to screen for HIV infection. The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) detects HIV antibodies and antigens in the blood.