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HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) Infection - Exams and Tests

Home test kits for HIV

A home test kit for HIV (called OraQuick) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For the test, you rub your gums with a swab supplied by the kit. Then you place the swab into a vial of liquid. The test strip on the swab indicates if you have HIV or not.

Another type of test kit for HIV is a home blood test kit. This type of kit provides instructions and materials for collecting a small blood sample by sticking your finger with a lancet. The blood is placed onto a special card that is then sent to a lab for analysis. You get the results over the phone using an anonymous code number. Counseling is also available over the phone for people who use the test kit.

If the results from a home test kit show that you have an HIV infection, talk with a doctor.

Testing positive for HIV

If you test positive, your doctor will complete a medical history and physical exam.

He or she may order several lab tests to check your overall health, including:

Other tests may be done to check for current or past infections that may become worse because of HIV. You may be tested for:

Ongoing tests

When you have HIV, two tests are done regularly to see how much of the virus is in your blood (viral load) and how the virus is affecting your immune system:

The results of these tests may help you make decisions about starting treatment or switching to new medicines if the ones you are taking aren't helping.

Testing for drug resistance

HIV often changes or mutates in the body. Sometimes these changes make the virus resistant to certain medicines. Then the medicine no longer works.

Medical experts recommend testing the blood of everyone diagnosed with HIV to look for this drug resistance.6 This information helps your doctor know what medicines to use.

You also may be tested for drug resistance when:

  • You are ready to begin treatment.
  • You've been having treatment and your viral load numbers stop going down.
  • You've been having treatment and your viral load numbers become detectable after not being detectable.

How is AIDS diagnosed?

AIDS is the last and most severe stage of HIV infection. It is diagnosed if the results of your test show that you have:

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 16, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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