Disease: HIV Testing

    HIV testing facts

    • HIV testing is done to diagnose those who are newly infected, to identify previously unrecognized infections, and to relieve the minds of those who are not infected.
    • HIV testing should be a routine part of medical practice.
    • It is critical that pregnant women be tested because medications are very effective in reducing transmission of HIV from mother to baby.
    • HIV testing is usually a two-step process. The first step is to test for antibodies in blood or saliva. If the test is positive, a second test called a Western blot is done to ensure that the first result was correct.
    • If both tests (antibody and Western blot) are positive, the chances are >99% that the patient is infected with HIV.
    • HIV antibody tests may miss some infections, resulting in false-negative tests. This often occurs soon after infection when antibodies are just starting to form and are at a level too low to be detected (within about four weeks of infection).
    • There are free HIV testing locations in every state.

    What is HIV?

    HIV is short for human immunodeficiency virus. This is the virus that causes the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS. HIV is a complicated virus that uses RNA, not DNA, as its genetic messenger. It replicates (reproduces) primarily in specialized cells of the body's immune system called CD4 lymphocytes. During HIV replication, the CD4 cells are destroyed. As more and more cells are killed, the body loses the ability to fight many infections. If the number of CD4 cells in the bloodstream falls below 200 per cubic millimeter, or if some other special conditions occur, the person is defined as having AIDS. These special conditions include infections and cancers that take advantage of the way that HIV suppresses the immune system. Regardless of the CD4 count, people with HIV infection carry the virus and can spread it to others through unprotected sex or contact with blood or some other body fluids.

    Statistics show that more than 1.1 million Americans are currently infected with HIV. Over 250,000 of these Americans are not aware that they are infected. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 50,000 new infections with HIV occur each year. Thus, HIV testing is important to diagnose those who are newly infected, to identify previously unrecognized infections, and to relieve the minds of those who are not infected. HIV testing is also used to reduce the risk of transmission during blood transfusions and tissue transplantation.

    The CDC recommends routine HIV testing of adolescent and adult patients aged 13 to 64 in all health-care settings, of all women during pregnancy and the newborns of HIV positive women. Thus, HIV testing is considered part of routine medical practice, similar to tests that screen for other diseases. People who are at high risk for acquiring HIV should be tested at least annually. Sometimes, doctors request or require testing as part of evaluation and treatment for other conditions, such as women undergoing treatment with assisted reproductive technologies for infertility or treatment of viral hepatitis. There is increasing concern that not enough people are being tested. Events such as National HIV Testing Day have been used to raise awareness and increase participation in testing.

    In some cases, HIV testing may be required by law. This occurs for blood that is used for transfusions, organ donors, and military personnel. States may select additional populations for mandatory testing, such as prisoners or newborns.

    What are the different types of HIV testing?

    There are three main types of HIV tests: antibody tests, RNA tests, and a combination test that detects both antibodies and viral protein called p24. All tests are designed to detect HIV-1, which is overwhelmingly the most common type of HIV in the United States. Some antibody tests and the combination test can also detect HIV-2 infections, which are less common in the U.S. No test is perfect; tests may be falsely positive or falsely negative or impossible to interpret ("indeterminate," see below).

    Positive test results are reportable to the health department in all 50 states and include the patient's name. This information is then reported to the CDC (without names) so that the epidemiology and infection spread rates can be monitored. The names sent to the state remain confidential and will not be reported to employers, family members, or other such people. Some states allow anonymous testing in which the patient's name is not recorded.

    HIV antibody tests: HIV possesses many unique proteins on its surface and inside the virus itself. When someone is infected with HIV, their body produces substances designed to neutralize the virus. These substances are called antibodies, and they are directed against the unique proteins of HIV. Unfortunately, these HIV antibodies do not eliminate the virus. However, their presence serves as a marker to show that someone is infected with HIV. HIV antibody tests are the most commonly used tests to determine if someone has HIV.

    Antibody testing is usually done on a blood sample, often using an enzyme-linked assay called an ELISA or EIA. In this test, a person's serum is allowed to react with virus proteins that have been produced in the laboratory. If the person has been infected with HIV, the antibodies in the serum will bind to the HIV proteins, and the extent of this binding can be measured. Negative EIA results are usually available in a day or so.

    There are some rapid HIV testing kits on the market that can be used in a doctor's office or other points of care. Most of these kits still require blood to be drawn, although it can be done using a simple finger stick in some cases. Home-testing is also possible and may be more convenient for some individuals. Home testing is done by adding a drop of blood to a test strip and mailing the sample to a laboratory. The FDA has also approved kits that test for antibodies in saliva/oral fluid instead of blood. Saliva is obtained by swabbing the gums. Some of the newest tests are done on urine, although results may be less accurate than results from blood.

    Because there is a small chance that a person's antibodies will falsely attach to the non-HIV proteins during the test, a second test is done on all initially positive tests. This second test is called the Western blot test. In this test, the HIV proteins are separated by size and electric charge and the person's serum is layered on the test strip. If the test is positive, a series of bands are detected which indicate specific binding of the person's antibody to specific HIV virus proteins. This test is only done in combination with the initial screening test.

    HIV RNA tests: The HIV RNA is different than all human RNA, and tests have been developed to detect HIV RNA in a person's blood. This uses a type of test called a polymerase chain reaction (PCR). These tests are important for newborn screening of HIV-positive mothers since maternal antibody may cross the placenta and be present in the newborn. These tests may also be helpful in detecting HIV infection in the first four weeks following exposure, before antibodies have had time to develop. However, they are costly and are not routinely used to screen for infection.

    HIV combination test: The HIV combination test detects antibodies directed against HIV-1 or HIV-2, as well as a protein called p24, which forms part of the core of the virus. This is important because it takes weeks for antibodies to form after the initial infection, even though the virus (and the p24 protein) is present in the blood. Thus, combination testing may allow for earlier detection of HIV infections. Preliminary studies suggest that diagnosis could be made an average of one week earlier using the combination test, compared to antibody testing alone. The test uses a reaction known as "chemiluminescence" to detect antibodies and p24 protein. In other words, if either the antibody or the p24 protein is present, the test reaction emits light that registers on a detector. There is only one currently approved combination test, the Architect HIV Ag/Ab Combo assay. If this test is positive, it is recommended it be repeated. Tests that remain positive are confirmed with Western blot as described above.

    How long does it take to get results back from an HIV test?

    Results from antibody tests that are sent to a laboratory usually take one to three days to return. If the test is positive, results may be delayed while the laboratory does a Western blot to be sure that HIV antibody is present. Western blot tests take only one day to perform, but some laboratories may not run the test every day. Results from rapid tests done in the doctor's office or at other points of care are usually available in 15-20 minutes. If the rapid test is positive, it is still necessary to send blood to a laboratory for a Western blot to be sure the rapid test result is correct. Home tests are mailed to a laboratory, and results return in one to two weeks. RNA testing results usually take a few days to a week, depending on the lab.

    Is counseling offered with HIV testing?

    Each state establishes requirements for HIV counseling. Most states have supported an "opt out" testing program in which people are recommended to have HIV testing but may opt out if they choose. Such programs should include counseling about HIV, including prevention of infection, the meaning of the HIV test, and the need for appropriate follow-up. Opt-out programs have resulted in earlier diagnosis of many people with HIV.

    HIV testing may sometimes be done if a health-care worker or first responder (policeman, fireman, emergency medical technician, etc.) has significant exposure to the blood or body fluid from an identifiable person. In this situation, testing without consent is available in most states. All blood and plasma donors, some prisoners, and some military personnel are tested for HIV.

    What is the likelihood of receiving a false positive or false negative with an HIV test?

    The current testing protocols are highly accurate but not perfect. The probability of a false result on the test depends on the test and on the likelihood that the person is infected.

    Falsely negative tests occur in people who are truly infected with HIV but have negative tests. Among 1,000 people who are truly infected, rapid tests will be falsely negative in zero to six people, depending on the test. Negative antibody tests in people infected with HIV may occur because antibody concentrations are low or because antibodies have not yet developed. On average, antibodies take about four weeks to reach detectable levels after initial infection, and falsely negative tests may occur during this so-called HIV window period. Individuals with negative tests and who had high risk for HIV exposure should be retested in two to three months.

    Falsely positive tests occur when uninfected people have positive tests. Among 1,000 people who do not have disease, rapid tests will be falsely positive in zero to nine people, depending on the test. This is the main reason for not relying on a single positive test for diagnosis. As discussed above, all positive initial tests must be confirmed with a Western blot. When both tests are positive, the likelihood of a person being HIV infected is >99%. Sometimes, the Western blot may be indeterminate, meaning that it is neither positive nor negative. In these cases, the tests are usually repeated at a later date or an RNA test is done.

    Is HIV testing necessary for pregnant women?

    HIV testing is critically important for pregnant women. HIV testing is recommended at the beginning of pregnancy during prenatal care. If any HIV risk factors are present or there is a high incidence of HIV in the population, testing should be repeated in the third trimester. There have been enormous advances in the treatment of HIV-infected pregnant women. With proper management, the probability of transmitting the virus to the fetus is less than 2%. Without proper management, the risk of transmission is as high as 33%. Because undiagnosed HIV is so common, it is necessary to test all pregnant women. It is strongly recommended that all children born to women with HIV also be tested.

    Where can people find free HIV testing locations?

    The CDC maintains a list of HIV testing locations for people who want to find out whether they have contracted the virus. This National HIV and STD Testing Resource can be accessed at http://www.hivtest.org. This site includes the ability to search for free testing locations as well as locations that provide rapid tests. Some clinics only provide HIV testing. However, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) clinics routinely provide HIV testing along with testing for diseases like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and herpes.

    What are the different types of HIV testing?

    There are three main types of HIV tests: antibody tests, RNA tests, and a combination test that detects both antibodies and viral protein called p24. All tests are designed to detect HIV-1, which is overwhelmingly the most common type of HIV in the United States. Some antibody tests and the combination test can also detect HIV-2 infections, which are less common in the U.S. No test is perfect; tests may be falsely positive or falsely negative or impossible to interpret ("indeterminate," see below).

    Positive test results are reportable to the health department in all 50 states and include the patient's name. This information is then reported to the CDC (without names) so that the epidemiology and infection spread rates can be monitored. The names sent to the state remain confidential and will not be reported to employers, family members, or other such people. Some states allow anonymous testing in which the patient's name is not recorded.

    HIV antibody tests: HIV possesses many unique proteins on its surface and inside the virus itself. When someone is infected with HIV, their body produces substances designed to neutralize the virus. These substances are called antibodies, and they are directed against the unique proteins of HIV. Unfortunately, these HIV antibodies do not eliminate the virus. However, their presence serves as a marker to show that someone is infected with HIV. HIV antibody tests are the most commonly used tests to determine if someone has HIV.

    Antibody testing is usually done on a blood sample, often using an enzyme-linked assay called an ELISA or EIA. In this test, a person's serum is allowed to react with virus proteins that have been produced in the laboratory. If the person has been infected with HIV, the antibodies in the serum will bind to the HIV proteins, and the extent of this binding can be measured. Negative EIA results are usually available in a day or so.

    There are some rapid HIV testing kits on the market that can be used in a doctor's office or other points of care. Most of these kits still require blood to be drawn, although it can be done using a simple finger stick in some cases. Home-testing is also possible and may be more convenient for some individuals. Home testing is done by adding a drop of blood to a test strip and mailing the sample to a laboratory. The FDA has also approved kits that test for antibodies in saliva/oral fluid instead of blood. Saliva is obtained by swabbing the gums. Some of the newest tests are done on urine, although results may be less accurate than results from blood.

    Because there is a small chance that a person's antibodies will falsely attach to the non-HIV proteins during the test, a second test is done on all initially positive tests. This second test is called the Western blot test. In this test, the HIV proteins are separated by size and electric charge and the person's serum is layered on the test strip. If the test is positive, a series of bands are detected which indicate specific binding of the person's antibody to specific HIV virus proteins. This test is only done in combination with the initial screening test.

    HIV RNA tests: The HIV RNA is different than all human RNA, and tests have been developed to detect HIV RNA in a person's blood. This uses a type of test called a polymerase chain reaction (PCR). These tests are important for newborn screening of HIV-positive mothers since maternal antibody may cross the placenta and be present in the newborn. These tests may also be helpful in detecting HIV infection in the first four weeks following exposure, before antibodies have had time to develop. However, they are costly and are not routinely used to screen for infection.

    HIV combination test: The HIV combination test detects antibodies directed against HIV-1 or HIV-2, as well as a protein called p24, which forms part of the core of the virus. This is important because it takes weeks for antibodies to form after the initial infection, even though the virus (and the p24 protein) is present in the blood. Thus, combination testing may allow for earlier detection of HIV infections. Preliminary studies suggest that diagnosis could be made an average of one week earlier using the combination test, compared to antibody testing alone. The test uses a reaction known as "chemiluminescence" to detect antibodies and p24 protein. In other words, if either the antibody or the p24 protein is present, the test reaction emits light that registers on a detector. There is only one currently approved combination test, the Architect HIV Ag/Ab Combo assay. If this test is positive, it is recommended it be repeated. Tests that remain positive are confirmed with Western blot as described above.

    How long does it take to get results back from an HIV test?

    Results from antibody tests that are sent to a laboratory usually take one to three days to return. If the test is positive, results may be delayed while the laboratory does a Western blot to be sure that HIV antibody is present. Western blot tests take only one day to perform, but some laboratories may not run the test every day. Results from rapid tests done in the doctor's office or at other points of care are usually available in 15-20 minutes. If the rapid test is positive, it is still necessary to send blood to a laboratory for a Western blot to be sure the rapid test result is correct. Home tests are mailed to a laboratory, and results return in one to two weeks. RNA testing results usually take a few days to a week, depending on the lab.

    Is counseling offered with HIV testing?

    Each state establishes requirements for HIV counseling. Most states have supported an "opt out" testing program in which people are recommended to have HIV testing but may opt out if they choose. Such programs should include counseling about HIV, including prevention of infection, the meaning of the HIV test, and the need for appropriate follow-up. Opt-out programs have resulted in earlier diagnosis of many people with HIV.

    HIV testing may sometimes be done if a health-care worker or first responder (policeman, fireman, emergency medical technician, etc.) has significant exposure to the blood or body fluid from an identifiable person. In this situation, testing without consent is available in most states. All blood and plasma donors, some prisoners, and some military personnel are tested for HIV.

    What is the likelihood of receiving a false positive or false negative with an HIV test?

    The current testing protocols are highly accurate but not perfect. The probability of a false result on the test depends on the test and on the likelihood that the person is infected.

    Falsely negative tests occur in people who are truly infected with HIV but have negative tests. Among 1,000 people who are truly infected, rapid tests will be falsely negative in zero to six people, depending on the test. Negative antibody tests in people infected with HIV may occur because antibody concentrations are low or because antibodies have not yet developed. On average, antibodies take about four weeks to reach detectable levels after initial infection, and falsely negative tests may occur during this so-called HIV window period. Individuals with negative tests and who had high risk for HIV exposure should be retested in two to three months.

    Falsely positive tests occur when uninfected people have positive tests. Among 1,000 people who do not have disease, rapid tests will be falsely positive in zero to nine people, depending on the test. This is the main reason for not relying on a single positive test for diagnosis. As discussed above, all positive initial tests must be confirmed with a Western blot. When both tests are positive, the likelihood of a person being HIV infected is >99%. Sometimes, the Western blot may be indeterminate, meaning that it is neither positive nor negative. In these cases, the tests are usually repeated at a later date or an RNA test is done.

    Is HIV testing necessary for pregnant women?

    HIV testing is critically important for pregnant women. HIV testing is recommended at the beginning of pregnancy during prenatal care. If any HIV risk factors are present or there is a high incidence of HIV in the population, testing should be repeated in the third trimester. There have been enormous advances in the treatment of HIV-infected pregnant women. With proper management, the probability of transmitting the virus to the fetus is less than 2%. Without proper management, the risk of transmission is as high as 33%. Because undiagnosed HIV is so common, it is necessary to test all pregnant women. It is strongly recommended that all children born to women with HIV also be tested.

    Where can people find free HIV testing locations?

    The CDC maintains a list of HIV testing locations for people who want to find out whether they have contracted the virus. This National HIV and STD Testing Resource can be accessed at http://www.hivtest.org. This site includes the ability to search for free testing locations as well as locations that provide rapid tests. Some clinics only provide HIV testing. However, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) clinics routinely provide HIV testing along with testing for diseases like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and herpes.

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

    Health Services in

    Define Common Diseases

    Senior Healthcare Matters helps you find information, definitaions and treatement options for most common diseases, sicknesses, illnesses and medical conditions. Find what diseases you have quick and now.