HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) testing

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) testing

Did you know that by the end of 2019, an estimated 1,189,700 people (about the population of New Hampshire) aged 13 and older had HIV in the United States [CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) data reports], including an estimated 158,500 (13%) people whose infections had not been diagnosed? The reason behind this is people never take HIV tests in the first place and in the initial stages, HIV doesn’t show any major symptoms.  

Keep reading this article to know about HIV tests and why you should take one.  

HIV is among the most dangerous sexually transmitted diseases in the world. Why? Because there is no cure for HIV and HIV leads to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Disease Syndrome), which makes your immune system weak enough that any disease can infect you and you might die. HIV is a virus that attacks your immune system and takes away your ability to fight infections. It can easily transfer through contact with infected blood, semen, and vaginal fluids. As this disease does not show any symptoms, in the beginning, people don’t know they are infected and need to take tests to confirm. And as a result, it’s sometimes too late when it is diagnosed, when severe damage had already been done to the immune system (which can lead to AIDS and then death). 

Do you need to get tested? 

If you come under the age group of 13 – 64 years, CDC recommends taking a test at least once. You can ask your doctor how often you need to take an HIV test.  

Although, people who have a high chance of getting this disease due to any reason should consider taking this test once every year.  

Some of these factors that required early HIV testing are:  

  •  Sex with someone who has HIV  
  •  People who don’t know if their partner has HIV  
  •  Sex with more than 1 partner  
  •  Having a partner who has had multiple sex partners  
  •  If you have been diagnosed with an STD (sexually transmitted disease), hepatitis, or TB (tuberculosis) 
  • If you inject drugs and share needles or other sharp equipment with other people. 

If you have been exposed to HIV, taking this test is necessary, and ask the doctor about PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis). 

How do HIV tests work? 

HIV tests work with blood samples or saliva samples to check whether HIV is present in your body or not. Blood is usually taken from the veins of your arm or one of your fingers with the help of a needle or injection. Saliva is taken from the inside of your cheek or gums with a soft swab. 

Types of tests 

There are several types of tests to check if you are infected with HIV. An appropriate test is chosen by the health care provider for you. Each test is different, and the results depend on the time of exposure to HIV and when the test is being conducted, called the window period.  

There are 3 types of tests to identify HIV infection. 

  • Antibody test 
  • Antigen test 
  • Nucleic Acid test 
  1. Antibody test: This test is used to check antibodies of HIV in your blood or oral fluid. These antibodies are a response to HIV infection to fight this disease. An HIV antibody test can determine if you have HIV from 3 to 12 weeks (about 3 months) after infection. This is the only test approved for self-test by the US.  
  2. Antigen/Antibody test: This test is used to check both HIV antibodies and antigens in your body. This test is recommended within 2–6 weeks (about 1 and a half months) of HIV infection. In this test, blood is drawn from a vein in your arm. This test is also available in rapid antigen tests where blood samples are taken from fingers.  
  3. Nucleic Acid Test/Viral load test: This test is used to check for HIV in your blood. In this test, blood is taken from a vein and sent to a lab for testing. This test detects the HIV virus and how much it is present (the viral load) in your blood. This test is good for recent or possible exposure or early symptoms of HIV and if you doubt the result of the previous two results. 

Talk to your healthcare provider to know which test is effective for you.  

What do my results mean? 

Results tell you whether you are positive or negative. 

If you get a positive result, in that case, you should take another follow-up test to confirm. You can do the test from the same doctor or lab with saliva or blood sample. Start taking treatment immediately when you have HIV and make sure you inform your sex partner and family.  

If negative, that means you don’t have HIV. But if you have been with any HIV-infected person recently, you may not develop the infection immediately. If you take the test in the window period- the results, come negative. In that case, ask the doctor and take a second test to make sure. And even then, if it becomes negative, then you don’t have HIV.  

Are the results private/confidential? 

If you take this test anonymously, no one will know the results besides you, unless you tell others about it. Self-tests are anonymous, and some centers also offer anonymous test services.  

In case you take a test at a lab or a hospital, the result will be stored in the medical record. That means your doctor, or your health insurance company might have your result.  

So, it is totally your choice, and you can discuss your options with your doctor before taking a test.  

HIV is a deadly disease, but taking precautions, and timely testing can help you avoid it. Even if you have HIV, these tests tell you about it and prompt treatment helps you live a complication-free life.

Want to know more about HIV tests from the experts? 

At Doral Health and Wellness, we have doctors that can help you manage your condition. For more information, you can visit us at 1797 Pitkin Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, 11212, or call us at 1-347-384-5690. You can also visit our website at or contact us at if you have any queries. 


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