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HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) Infection - Exams and Tests

Blood tests for HIV

HIV is diagnosed when antibodies to HIV are found in the blood. The two main blood tests are:

HIV is diagnosed when a positive ELISA test is confirmed by a positive Western blot assay or other test.

Rapid antibody tests are available that give results right away. One rapid blood test can detect both HIV antibodies and antigens, which allows an HIV infection to be found earlier than was possible in the past. Positive results of a rapid test may need to be confirmed by the ELISA or Western blot test.

Until you know the results of your test:

  • Avoid sexual contact with others. If you do have sex, practice safer sex.
  • Do not share needles, syringes, cookers, cotton, cocaine spoons, or eyedroppers.

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:

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