While treatment for HIV patients has come a long way in the past thirty years, with scientists unlocking the secrets of how the virus works, HIV testing remains a mystery to many living in the world today. Fortunately, there have been many advances in HIV testing, making current HIV testing protocols nearly 100% accurate. What does this mean? It means that when you receive your HIV testing result, you can be assured that it is an accurate assessment of your HIV testing status.
Understanding the HIV Virus
To understand how HIV testing works, you need to understand how the virus, and HIV testing, works. The virus itself is small, and when it enters a person’s bloodstream, attack’s the body’s ability to fight disease. To respond, the body produces anti-bodies to fight the infection, but the HIV is too overwhelming and the anti-bodies lose the battle. However, the anti-bodies remain in the bloodstream and since HIV is too small to detect through HIV testing, HIV testing is designed to detect these anti-bodies.
HIV Antibody Testing and Time Frames
HIV lives in the blood and testing is designed to detect the anti-bodies produced to fight the disease, not the HIV itself. The second lesson on HIV testing is to understand that it takes the body a few months to build up enough anti-bodies to be detected through HIV testing, usually three to six. This is why individuals are strongly encouraged to wait this long, called the testing window, and why individuals should follow-up negative HIV testing results with a confirmation test six months later.
HIV Antibody Testing has Improved Significantly Over the Years
The next lesson, HIV testing lesson number three, is that your blood may actually go through two steps of the HIV testing process. This process, widely used, involves a screening test, the ELISA test, that indicates whether or not HIV is present in the blood. Negative results are highly accurate. Blood testing positive at this step is put through a second test, the Western Blot test, to confirm the earlier finding. The Western Blot step of HIV testing will yield one of three results: positive, negative, or indeterminate. Coupled with the ELISA test, the Western Blot test yields an accuracy of close to 100%. Those who receive an indeterminate result at this point in HIV testing will be asked to return for follow-up HIV testing, although chances are that individual is indeed infected with HIV.
The last lesson on HIV testing is that HIV testing is easier than ever. With the advent of online HIV testing services, HIV testing is only a click away. These online HIV testing services provide convenience, affordability, and most importantly, confidentiality – three attributes important to anyone considering HIV testing. Despite all the reasons you may feel that you shouldn’t get tested for HIV advances in HIV testing make it easier than ever to get tested.
Advances in this field include:
- Rapid testing: HIV antibody tests that provide results within minutes to hours.
- Point-of-care testing: Tests that can be done at a health facility or home without the need for laboratory equipment.
- Oral fluid testing: Tests that use oral fluid samples instead of blood samples.
- Dried blood spot testing: Tests that use a small sample of dried blood on a card for analysis.
- Multiplex testing: Tests that can detect multiple infections at the same time, including HIV.
These advances have improved the accessibility and speed of HIV testing, leading to earlier diagnosis and treatment.