HIV and AIDS
HIV Tests continued...
Antibody/antigen tests. These tests can detect HIV up to 20 days earlier than standard tests. They check for HIV antigen, a part of the virus that shows up 2-4 weeks after infection. These tests These tests can also detect HIV antibodies. A positive result for the antigen allows treatment to begin earlier and the patient to avoid infecting others. These are blood tests only.
Rapid antibody/antigen test. One antibody/antigen tests delivers results in 20 minutes.
In-home test kits. These kits -- there are two available in the U.S. -- screen blood and saliva for HIV antibodies. You can buy them at your local store. The Home Access HIV-1 Test System requires a small blood sample that is collected at home and sent to a lab. The user, who may remain anonymous, can get results by phone in three business days. The OraQuick In-Home HIV Test can detect HIV antibodies in saliva, if the antibodies are present (which can take up to 6 months). The user swabs the upper and lower gums of their mouths, places the sample in a developer vial, and can get results in 20-40 minutes. A follow-up test should be done if the result is positive.
PCR tests. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) detects the genetic material of HIV, instead of the antibodies in blood. A PCR test can tell whether you have HIV much sooner than the antibody test -- within two to three weeks of infection. This test is also known as a viral load test. It is more expensive but more definitive, especially early after exposure to the virus.
Who Should Be Tested for HIV?
Recently, the CDC changed testing recommendations. All adults should be screened at least once. People who are considered high risk (needle drug users, multiple sex partners, for example) should be tested more often. All pregnant women should be tested. Anyone who has sustained a needle stick or significant blood exposure from a person known to have HIV or from an unknown source should be tested, too.
Does HIV Have Symptoms?
Some people get flu-like symptoms within a month after they have been infected. These symptoms often go away within a week to a month. A person can have HIV for many years before feeling ill.
As the disease progresses, both women and men may experience yeast infections on the tongue (thrush), and women may develop severe vaginal yeast infections or pelvic inflammatory disease. Shingles is often seen early on, often before someone is diagnosed with HIV.
What Are the Symptoms of AIDS?
Signs that HIV is turning into AIDS include: