HIV-1 Antibody Test
What is the HIV-1 antibody test?
HIV tests are done to see if you are infected with the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
If you are infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), your immune system makes antibodies to the virus. Antibodies are substances that try to destroy or get rid of the virus. Most HIV tests check for these antibodies to HIV. If you have the antibodies, it means you have been infected with HIV.
There are tests that look for the virus itself, but in most cases they are not the best tests to diagnose HIV infection.
Why is this test done?
HIV antibody tests check for infection with the HIV/AIDS virus. The tests are also used to screen donated blood for HIV. There is no way to know without testing if you are infected with HIV. Learning that you are HIV positive will make you aware that you need to get care for yourself and you need to protect others from your infection.
How do I prepare for this test?
It is important to get counseling before or when you have the HIV test. This can help you be aware of things you do that may increase your risk for HIV infection. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions about the test.
How is the test done?
Having an HIV test takes just a few minutes. The first HIV antibody test may be a quick-result blood test. If the first test result is positive, meaning that it shows HIV infection, the test needs to be confirmed with a second test of your blood.
The quick-result blood test uses a small amount of blood taken from your finger or arm. The blood from a finger prick is put in a solution and tested with a dipstick. Blood taken from your arm with a needle is sent to a lab for testing. The blood taken from your arm can also be used for a second test to confirm the first test result.
Home test kits have become available through the Internet. However, some of these tests have been found to be inaccurate. There are no home HIV tests approved by Health Canada.
How will I get the test result?
Ask your heath care provider when and how you will get the result of your test. Results from the finger-prick test may be available in 30 minutes or less. You may get results from other HIV tests in 2 to 10 days.
The test results are confidential. However, positive results may be reported to the Public Health department for 2 reasons.
· The first reason is to provide help with notifying others who may have been exposed to HIV (your name will not be used). The Public Health department will call the people with whom you have had intimate contact. They will tell them that they have been named as a contact of someone who has tested positive for HIV and that they need to be tested. If you are in an intimate relationship with someone, you may bring your partner to your healthcare provider for discussion and testing.
· The second reason is to provide reports to the federal government so there can be a count of how many people have HIV. The count helps determine where and how the virus is spreading and how much funding is needed for HIV prevention and care in various regions.
Some centers offer anonymous testing. Anonymous testing does not use your name at all. Positive results are reported without any personal identifiers. Some people feel this better protects the confidentiality and civil rights of people who test positive for HIV.
What do the test results mean?
In general, a confirmed positive HIV test means that you are infected with HIV, and a negative test means that you are not infected with HIV. However, it takes at least a few weeks for HIV antibodies to show up in the blood after you have been infected by the virus. This means that if you have just recently been infected, your first test result might be negative. If you are infected and the test is repeated several weeks or months later, the result will be positive. For this reason, if you have a negative test result but you are at high risk for infection, you may need to have another test in 3 to 6 months. Most people develop detectable antibodies within 2 to 8 weeks after infection with the virus (the average is 25 days). However, some people take longer to develop detectable antibodies.
Sometimes an HIV test result can be positive even though you do not have HIV infection. This is called a false positive test. This is why labs do a second HIV test to check positive results from the first test. The second test takes longer and is more expensive than the first test, but it is more precise.
What if my test result is positive?
If your first test for HIV is positive, you should have more blood tests to confirm the results. If repeat tests are positive, you should seek medical care, even if you don’t have any symptoms. You need to start taking medicine to try to stop the HIV infection from developing into AIDS. You need to discuss the test results with your healthcare provider or an HIV counselor as soon as possible to protect your health and the health of others.
Talk to your healthcare provider about your result and ask questions such as:
· if you need more tests
· what kind of treatment you might need
· when you need to be tested again
· how often you should see your healthcare provider
For more information:
Public Health Agency of Canada