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Some of the common types of HIV test

There are several tests that are commonly used to find out whether a person is infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. These include the HIV antibody test, P24 antigen test and PCR test. There are other types of HIV testing, which are used once a person has been diagnosed with the virus including the CD4 test and the viral load test.

HIV antibody test

An HIV antibody test looks for antibodies in blood, saliva or urine. If antibodies to HIV are found it means the person has been infected with HIV.

Antibodies are produced by the body in response to infection by a pathogen. Infection by the HIV virus is no different. An HIV antibody test is a very common test for routine diagnosis of HIV in the UK.  Antibody tests are fast, cheap and very accurate. The ELISA antibody test (enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent) also known as EIA (enzyme immunoassay) was the first HIV test to be widely used and are easy to automate so that Labs can test many samples at the same time.How do antibody tests work?

Antibody tests are very accurate test  for HIV antibodies. ELISA tests are very sensitive and so can detect very small amounts of HIV antibody. This high level of sensitivity however, means that their specificity (ability to distinguish HIV antibodies from other antibodies) is slightly lowered. There is therefore a very small possibility that a result could come back as ‘false positive’ therefore all positive test results are followed up with a confirmatory test using a different method:

Rapid Tests

There are HIV rapid test kits based on the same technology as ELISA tests, but instead of sending the patient sample to a lab for analysis the rapid test can produce results within 20 minutes. Rapid tests can use either a blood sample or oral fluids and have the advantage that they are easy to use and do not require laboratory facilities or highly trained staff. All positive results from a rapid test must be followed up with a confirmatory test, the results of which can take from a few days to a few weeks.

PCR test

A PCR test (Polymerase Chain Reaction test) detects the genetic material of HIV rather antibodies and so can identify HIV in the blood even when it is in very small amounts for example within two or three weeks of infection. The test is also known as a viral load test and HIV NAAT (nucleic acid amplification testing).These tests are very accurate but,they are very expensive and more complicated to administer and interpret than a standard antibody test.

HIV home sampling and HIV home testing

It is generally recommended that an HIV test is carried out in a healthcare setting.We at Checkmybody endorse this advice contact us for more information.

With a home sampling kit, a person can take their own sample (usually blood) and send it to a lab where it is test the results being made known a few days later.If the result is positive then a professional counsellor will provide emotional support and referrals.

A company in the USA offers an FDA-approved home sampling kit for HIV.3 Many home sampling kits that have not been approved by the FDA are being marketed online be wary.

A company in the UK offers home sampling services using oral fluid instead of blood. If a person’s test result is positive it will need to be followed up by a blood-test at a clinic.

Home testing

A home self-test involves a person conducting a rapid antibody HIV test in their home. The person takes either a blood or saliva sample and can interpret the result within minutes. A positive result will require a further confirmatory blood-test in a clinic.

Home testing for HIV is not presently legal in the UK.