rapid hiv test

Rapid HIV Test

HIV is a rather volatile virus that has spread throughout humankind rapidly ever since its discovery back in 1984. Nowadays, it is so widespread that some might call it a pandemic. In the early days, testing for HIV was a difficult and very time-consuming procedure, one that also caused a lot of stress for the person being tested.

Today, with the introduction of rapid HIV testing, one can get their results in just 15 or 30 minutes, depending on the type of rapid HIV test they are using. In addition to avoiding the hassle of waiting for almost an entire week to get your results as it had been done earlier, you can even do the test at home, as opposed to having to go to a clinic. But how do you do that? Which test to choose and, more importantly, how to make sure, you are doing everything right? Let us take a look at the test itself and its various instances to answer all of these questions.

Rapid HIV Test

With testing methodologies getting better and better, people who suspect themselves of having contracted HIV can take a test and get their results in a period as short as 15 to 30 minutes. These tests are usually called antibody tests as they scan either the blood or an oral sample for HIV-1 antibodies. HIV is divided into two subtypes, HIV-1 and HIV-2. Those are further subdivided, but these two are predominately being tested for in the rapid HIV tests.

The two main subtypes are different though, HIV-2 being less virulent to humans. Both can cause AIDS, have in mind, so testing for both of those is encouraged, even though most HIV rapid test methods detect only HIV-1. The reason behind HIV-1 being the primary subtype of interest when it comes to testing is because it is the one found in most humans, the more volatile of the two. HIV-2, while it can still lead to AIDS, is much less pathogenic. The transmission rate of HIV-2 is significantly lower than that of HIV-1.

How Rapid Testing Works:

Depending on whether you are going to do an oral test or a finger-prick test, you will have a different procedure. The testing procedure can also depend on whether you are doing the test at home using a home HIV test kit or getting tested at a clinic.

For oral testing, you swab your mouth for saliva, following very specific instructions, and you insert the pad containing the saliva into a solution which will, after 20 minutes, provide you with the result, positive or negative. Blood tests require you to have your finger pricked for blood, so that it can be tested in a different solution, but with the same goal, which is looking for traces of HIV.

Rapid tests are usually 3rd generation tests. That means that the tests look for antibodies in your blood or saliva. They have a certain time window where they give out the best results, and that would be from three weeks on from the day of the infection (12 weeks to be 100% sure). That time window gives the human body enough time to develop antibodies against the HIV virus, which the test is used to detect. The tests are very precise, especially if done with the abovementioned time period in mind. If you wish to do any follow up testing, a professional laboratory is the preferred method, as they can do 4th generation tests, which look not only for antibodies, but also for antigens.

While 3rd generation tests are tied to a person’s immune system, or rather, its response to the HIV infection, results may vary. 4th generation rapid HIV tests look for antigens, parts of the HIV virus which are in your bloodstream, which actually trigger the immune system to respond. Have in mind that both 3rd and 4th generation laboratory tests yield more precise results than the rapid ones. These tests are used to confirm or negate the results of the rapid tests.

Home HIV Test Kit

Having fewer people at their clinics every year, doctors and scientists alike have developed different test kits which you can use at home to determine whether you have HIV or not. Whether they are oral swab tests or blood-based ones, they give precise results if performed within the recommended time period. There are extra early tests, but those can produce variable results, so retesting 12 weeks after suspected exposure to the virus would be necessary, which is usually accompanied by more stress and unpleasantness.

To do a HIV home test, you would first need to purchase one. You can find them in your local brick-and-mortar drugstores or order them online. Note, however, that these tests are sensitive and if not handled according to the instructions, can give out false positives or negatives, in other words, compromised results.

To do an at home HIV test, you will need to follow the instructions very carefully. The tests, both the oral and the finger prick ones, give out results in a similar way. After waiting for 15 to 30 minutes, you will see either one line or two lines, one of which can be barely visible or less opaque. One line means that the test is negative, two means that it is probably positive. Depending on your suspected exposure time, the tests can be very precise, their results being more doubtful the closer you are to the suspected time. After 12 weeks, you can almost be certain in the results. Take note, some finger prick tests require you to send your blood sample to a lab, your results being, of course, anonymous, should you desire so.

Once your results come in, depending on the outcome, you have various options.

What If It’s Positive?

If your rapid HIV test results come back positive, it means that your blood or oral fluid contain HIV antibodies. The news of testing positive is scary and it leaves a person overwhelmed with questions and concerns, but it is not a death sentence.

Even with modern tests being so accurate, it is customary to do a second follow-up one, the so called confirmatory test. Your doctor can provide you with guidance and give you a list of places offering confirmatory testing. It will take more time to get results from your second test, somewhere between 1 and 2 weeks, but those tests are much more precise.

There are support groups and counsellors available as well. They can help you with any questions you might have and talk with you about what happens next. Finding out early after infection that you are HIV positive will allow you to get the medical care, see an HIV specialist who will take care of your health and help prevent eventual health problems that HIV can cause. HIV medicines can help people live longer and healthier lives, but they can`t cure HIV. Nowadays, if a person has HIV, he or she can expect a normal lifespan if treatments start in the early stages, before AIDS develops.

What If It’s Negative?

A negative HIV test result means that HIV antibodies are not present in your blood or saliva sample at the moment you took the test. In most of the cases that means that you are not infected with HIV.

Resulting negative can be a great relief, but remember that it can take from 2 weeks up to 3 months for a HIV infected person to test positive after being infected. That is the period of time called the ‘window period’. To be sure you don’t have HIV, you should consider testing again in 1-3 months, especially if you have had recent unprotected exposure to a person you suspect of having HIV.

You can also ask for support from your health care provider – advice on staying healthy and safe – and consider using PrEPP. It is a pill taken daily to prevent HIV infection. You should also consider getting counseling in order to prevent any other unsafe activities which may get you exposed to HIV.

In this modern world, where everything is getting done faster and faster, even HIV tests have joined in. Rapid HIV testing has become a viable option for a lot of people, giving you results in a much shorter time as compared to older alternatives. You can buy them at local drugstores, sometimes even order them online and perform them at home.

Be careful, though, because the results of a home HIV test can alter depending on whether you have followed the instructions carefully or not. Retesting at a specialized laboratory is always recommended, as is consulting with a specialist.

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