Most doctors use two blood tests, called the ELISA and the Western blot
assay. If the first ELISA is positive (meaning that HIV antibodies are found),
the blood sample is tested again. If the second test is positive, a Western blot will be done to be sure.
It may take as long as 6 months
for HIV antibodies to show up in a blood sample. If you think you have been
exposed to HIV but you test negative for it:
- Get tested again. Tests at 6, 12, and 24 weeks can be done to be sure you
are not infected.
- Meanwhile, take steps to prevent the spread of
the virus. If you are infected, you can still pass HIV to another person during
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.
You can get HIV testing in most
doctors? offices, public health clinics, hospitals, and Planned Parenthood
clinics. You can also buy a home HIV test kit in a drugstore or by mail order.
But be very careful to choose only a test that has been approved by the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If a home test is positive, see a doctor to
have the result confirmed and to find out what to do next.
How is it treated?
The standard treatment for HIV
is a combination of medicines called highly active antiretroviral therapy
(HAART). Antiretroviral medicines slow the rate at which the virus multiplies.
Taking these medicines can reduce the amount of virus in your body and help you
It may not be easy to decide the best time to start
treatment. There are pros and cons to starting HAART before your CD4+ cell count gets too low.
Discuss these with your doctor so you understand your choices.
monitor the HIV infection and its effect on your immune system, a doctor will
do two tests:
- Viral load, which shows the amount of virus
in your blood.
- CD4+ cell count, which shows how well your immune system is
If you have no symptoms and your CD4+ cell count is at a
healthy level, you may not need treatment yet. Your doctor will repeat the
tests on a regular basis to see how you are doing. If you have symptoms or some other health problems, you
should start treatment, whatever your CD4+ count is.
After you start treatment, it is important to take your medicines exactly
as directed by your doctor. When treatment doesn't work, it is often because
HIV has become
resistant to the medicine. This can happen if you
don't take your medicines correctly. Ask your doctor if you have questions
about your treatment.