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Rapid HIV Test

What Is the Rapid HIV Test?

It is now clear from a number of studies that getting treatment as soon as possible after becoming infected with HIV is better than waiting. HIV-infected patients who are treated early have fewer complications from HIV infection and are less likely to infect other people than those who wait to be treated. Studies also show that people who know they are HIV-positive may change their behavior to decrease the risk of infecting others.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that all people between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV regardless of risk.

HIV testing is also recommended at least once a year for those at higher risk of getting HIV infection. These include

  • people who use injection drugs and share needles or syringes;
  • people who have unprotected sex (vaginal, anal or oral) with men who have sex with men (MSM), or with people who have sex with multiple partners or anonymous partners;
  • people who exchange sex for drugs or money;
  • people who have been diagnosed with hepatitis, tuberculosis (TB), or an STI (sexually-transmitted infection) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis; and
  • people who have unprotected sex with someone with any of the above risk factors.

There are now two categories of HIV tests: conventional and rapid. Conventional tests are those in which blood or oral fluid is collected and then sent to the lab for testing. Results from conventional tests are typically available in a few hours to a few days. Rapid tests, however, can be done directly at the point of care and yield results in 15-20 minutes, while you wait.

In October 2004, conventional HIV testing was changed when OraSure Technologies, Inc., announced that it had U.S. FDA approval for a rapid HIV test that can detect antibodies to both HIV-1 and HIV type 2 (HIV-2). This is called the OraQuick Advance Rapid HIV-1/2 Antibody Test. It was the first available test that could provide results in 20 minutes using oral fluid, a finger-stick sample of blood, or plasma. Rapid HIV testing is now highly recommended and has become the mainstay of most HIV screening programs.

Last Reviewed 11/20/2017
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HIV Testing

  • Almost all people infected with HIV will develop HIV antibodies in their bloodstream within three to six months of their infection.
  • If you engaged in behavior that can transmit the virus during the six months prior to ELISA HIV testing, you may have a false-negative test. In other words, your test may be reported to you as negative, but you may actually be infected because your body may not yet have produced enough antibodies to be detected by the test. To be sure, you must be retested at least six months after you last engaged in behavior that can transmit HIV.

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