The HIV viral load is the number of copies of the human immunodeficiency virus in your blood and other parts of your body. The HIV viral load test involves taking a blood sample from a vein in your arm. The amount of HIV in your blood is then measured. Along with other tests, the HIV viral load test helps monitor your disease, guide HIV therapy, and predict how your disease may progress. Keeping your viral load low can reduce complications of HIV disease and extend your life.
Two common test numbers...
As part of regular medical care for people 15 to 65 years old.
For all pregnant women.
For people younger than 15 and older than 65 if they have a high risk for HIV, such as for people who engage in
You and your doctor can decide if testing is right for you.
Fear of being tested
Some people are afraid to be tested for HIV. But if there
is any chance you could be infected, it is very important to find out. HIV can
be treated. Getting early treatment can slow down the virus and help you stay
healthy. And you need to know if you are infected so you can prevent spreading
the infection to other people.
Your doctor may recommend counseling before and after HIV testing. It
is usually available at the hospital or clinic where you will be tested. This
will give you an opportunity to:
Discuss your fears about being
Learn how to reduce your risk of becoming infected if your
test is negative.
Learn how to keep from spreading HIV to others if
your test is positive.
Think about personal issues, such as how
having HIV will affect you socially, emotionally, professionally, and
Learn what you need to do to stay healthy as long as
positive for HIV will probably make you anxious and afraid about your future.
depression are common reactions.
Don't be afraid to ask for the emotional support you need. If your family and
friends aren't able to provide you with support, a
professional counselor can help.
The good news is that people being treated for HIV are living longer than ever
before with the help of medicines that can often prevent AIDS from developing. Your doctor can help you understand
your condition and how best to treat it.
Blood tests for HIV
HIV is diagnosed when
antibodies to HIV are found in the blood. The two
main blood tests are:
Western blot, used to confirm the results of a positive ELISA test.
HIV is diagnosed only after two or more positive ELISA tests are confirmed by one positive Western blot assay. These tests usually can be done on the same blood sample.
ELISA test results usually come back in 2 to 4 days.
Results of the Western blot take 1 to 2 weeks. Rapid antibody tests are available that give results right away. But positive results of the rapid test need to be confirmed by the ELISA or Western blot test.