Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Test
Why It Is Done
A test for the human immunodeficiency
virus (HIV) is done to:
- Detect an HIV infection. Testing is often done
for people with
risk factors for HIV infection and people who have
symptoms of an HIV infection.
blood, blood products, and organ donors to prevent the spread of
- Screen pregnant women for HIV infection. The
United States Preventive Services Task Force
recommends all pregnant women be screened. Pregnant women who are infected with
HIV and receive treatment are less likely to pass the infection on to their
babies than are women who do not receive treatment.
- Find out if a
baby born to an HIV-positive woman also is infected with HIV.
PCR is often done in this case because the baby may
get antibodies against HIV from the mother and yet not be infected.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
recommend HIV screening as part of routine blood testing. You and your doctor
can decide if testing is right for you.
This test is not done to
determine if a person has AIDS. A diagnosis of AIDS means a person is
HIV-positive and other problems are present.
How To Prepare
You do not need to do anything before you have this test.
A test for HIV infection can't be done without
your consent. Most doctors offer counseling before and after the test to
- How the test is done, what the results mean,
and any other tests that may be done.
- How the diagnosis of an HIV
infection may affect your social, emotional, professional, and financial
- The benefits of early diagnosis and treatment.
Before the test, it is important to tell your doctor how
and where to contact you when your test results are ready. If your doctor has
not contacted you within 1 to 2 weeks of your test, call and ask for your
How It Is Done
The health professional drawing blood
- Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to
stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is
easier to put a needle into the vein.
- Clean the needle site with
- Put the needle into the vein. More than one needle stick
may be needed.
- Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with
- Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is
- Apply a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as
the needle is removed.
- Apply pressure to the site and then a
How It Feels
You may feel nothing at all from the
needle puncture, or you may feel a brief sting or pinch as the needle goes
through the skin. Some people feel a stinging pain while the needle is in the
vein. But many people do not feel any pain (or have only minor discomfort)
once the needle is positioned in the vein. The amount of pain you feel depends
on the skill of the health professional drawing the blood, the condition of
your veins, and your sensitivity to pain.