All About HIV Testing, Common Myths and How It Works
There are so many misconceptions about HIV testing. Some people think the tests are horribly invasive while others think you are automatically tested for it during your yearly physical. Neither of these ideas is true. You need to request an HIV test if you want one and they are really pretty easy. It is just like any other blood test.
There are several different types of HIV / AIDS tests available that can help you detect whether or not you have the disease. These types include:
HIV Antibody Test
When you contract HIV, a special protein is produced called an antibody. Antibodies work to fight the invaders -the HIV virus- and are only present in the body if you have HIV. Each virus causes the body to produce a specific type of antibody – one that is tailored to fight that virus. If you have HIV antibodies then you have HIV.
It can take up to three months for HIV antibodies to appear in the blood. Having an HIV test done before this can produce a false-negative result. For some people, the HIV antibodies do not appear until six months after infection. A follow-up test after six months is recommended just in case.
It is also important to note that during the first few weeks after infection, a person is extremely likely to pass on HIV to others. This is because the body has not even attempted to fight back against the HIV virus, meaning you have a ton of it floating around in your blood, semen or vaginal fluids. You should always abstain from sex if you even think for a moment you may have contracted HIV.
HIV Antigen Test
The HIV antigen test can be used earlier than the antibody test but it may not be as accurate. It works by detecting a substance called P24, a protein that is produced by the HIV virus itself. When a germ or virus enters the body, it carries with it an antigen, in this case, protein P24. As HIV “settles in” the body, an abundance of P24 is present and causes the production of antibodies to start. This means that this antigen is present before antibodies and once the antibodies begin to develop, the less likely a positive result can be obtained from an antigen test. It is all about timing, really.
DNA or RNA Test
A DNA or RNA test can be conducted within a week of suspected infection. This is because it goes so far as to detect the genetic material of HIV. They are usually used in babies born to an HIV positive mother. Babies in this situation do not respond well to the antibody or antigen tests as they will have their mother’s antibodies for quite sometime after birth. The DNA or RNA test, also called a Polymerase Chain Reaction test, can be sure to get results right away.
You can go to a HIV testing facility and have these HIV tests done or purchase an at-home HIV detection kit. Either way, you will be doing yourself and those in your life a favor by being responsible and knowing for sure if you have this disease or not.