How HIV testing works

What HIV testing involves

HIV testing has come a long way over the past decade. You might be surprised at how easy and accurate it can be nowadays. One of the biggest changes has been the move from taking blood samples to using an oral swab.

This is called an antibody screening test, and it tests the antibodies in your blood for the presence of HIV. Your antibodies are little components of your body that are used to fight infection and disease. If those antibodies have been in contact with the HIV virus, then they will have traces of it in them.

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To test for the virus itself, an antigen test is used. The antigen is the actual virus, and it can be detected by taking a blood sample. This is not the default testing method, however, and that’s due to how long it can take for the results to come back from the tests.

The oral swab is preferred, since it can give results in as little as 30 minutes. However, no matter which type of test is used, there is a testing window that needs to be observed. For most people, that window is about three weeks. Some people will be able to know sooner than that, but it is a good average time to wait before expecting valid results.

Everybody has different things going on in their body, and it may take longer for their antibodies to respond. That is why there is a waiting period. In some cases, it can take as long as three months for an HIV test to come back with accurate results, but this is fairly rare. Still, it is a good idea to be tested again after that three-week window. You cannot be too sure about your HIV testing results.

If you were to have yourself tested, or to use a home test within the first week or so of getting an infection, you would likely receive a negative result. It would usually be a waste of time to have the test done so soon after the fact.

If you want even faster results you can opt for the RNA test. This tests for the virus itself through the blood and it is more expense than any other kinds of HIV tests. An RNA test can find traces of HIV within ten days of being infected; so if you really need to know sooner than that three-week period, then this is the way to go.

If you believe there is a chance that you have been infected with HIV, you should not have intercourse at all while you wait for the test results. There is a high risk that can pass on that virus to someone else, even if you are practicing safe sex. Anyone engaging in sex regularly, with multiple partners, should receive regular HIV testing.

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