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HIV & AIDS Health Center

Screening Tests for HIV Diagnosis and Treatment

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HIV Tests: Getting a Diagnosis continued...

Rapid antibody tests. Most of these are blood tests for HIV antibodies. Some can detect antibodies in saliva. Results are available in under 30 minutes and are as accurate as standard tests. 

Antibody/antigen tests. These tests are recommended by the CDC and 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 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. 

To learn where HIV testing is available in your area, call: 800-CDC-INFO (232-4636). If you have a positive HIV test result, see a health care provider who has experience treating HIV and AIDS as soon as possible.

HIV Screening Tests After Diagnosis

While being treated for HIV, your doctor will perform several tests to monitor your health, determine when you need to start treatment, and check how well treatment is working. These include:

CD4 count. CD4 is a protein that lives on the surface of infection-fighting white blood cells called T-helper cells. HIV targets these immune cells.

To monitor the health of your immune system, your doctor will check your CD4 count -- the number of CD4 cells in a sample of blood. You should have your CD4 count tested every three to six months during treatment.

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