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What is HIV?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks and weakens the immune system. While HIV itself is not particularly dangerous, a weakened immune system means that even minor illnesses can kill you.

If left untreated, HIV can turn into Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), where the body is left weak from the virus. This is the latest stage of HIV and the one that can be fatal.

Testing for HIV

While an HIV diagnosis can be scary, and left untreated it is a dangerous disease, most people these days do not reach the later stages because of the management medications available.

The best way to reduce the impact of HIV is to get tested early and begin medication as soon as you receive a positive diagnosis. There are a few different methods of testing for HIV, some that test for the virus and others that test for antibodies.


Nucleic Acid Tests (NATs) are conducted on the blood to detect the virus. These are used to make an initial diagnosis and to measure the amount of HIV in the blood. An NAT involves drawing blood, which is usually done in a lab, but here at Treatable you can do the same test at home using the finger prick method.

Antibody tests

The most common test for HIV looks for antibodies and antigens. These are created by the body to trigger the immune system, in the same way that vaccines do. With HIV, however, the immune system goes on attacking the body until it is completely weakened.

If antigens or antibodies are present in the blood, it is because a person has been infected with HIV in the past. Some tests detect both antibodies and antigens, while others test only for antibodies.

Rapid HIV tests

Rapid tests can deliver results in just 30 minutes and can be done from the comfort of your own home. A finger prick test can replace a full blood test and oral samples can be collected for rapid testing too.

Some rapid tests search for antibodies and antigens, while others search for antibodies only.

HIV test methods

HIV blood tests are the best-known method for collecting a sample and were originally conducted only by a nurse. More recently, the effectiveness of finger-prick tests has meant that blood tests for HIV can be conducted yourself from home.

Oral samples can also be tested for HIV, and these can be collected at home or by a nurse. Oral samples are taken using a swab method around the mouth to collect saliva.


How soon can HIV be detected by a blood test?

The incubation period for HIV depends on the test being used. Generally, antigens can be detected before antibodies, and laboratory blood tests can detect the virus before finger-prick and saliva tests.

How long does an HIV test take?

Each test is different, but they all last between a few seconds and a few minutes to conduct. After that, your doctor will tell you how long you are likely to wait for results.

How to get tested for HIV?

To find your closest testing clinic, reach out to your doctor. Alternatively, order an HIV at home test kit for fast results from the privacy of your home.

How accurate are home HIV tests?

At home HIV test accuracy is very close to 100%. There is a chance of getting a false negative, especially in the few weeks after infection. The chance of getting a false-positive is very slim, but still possible. The chance of inaccuracy is the same for at home HIV tests and lab tests.

How much is an HIV test?

A study found the mean cost to hospitals of preliminary HIV tests in America to be $64.17. Depending on where you live, the cost may or may not be covered by insurance or state or national healthcare.

Clinics such as planned parenthood are likely to give you an HIV test free of charge if you need it, but speaking to your doctor is the best way to work out your options.

How do they test for HIV?

An HIV test is conducted on your blood or saliva. In a lab, they will examine your samples and look for antibodies or evidence of the live virus.

How long do HIV test results take?

Depending on the test taken, results can take between 30 minutes and one week to get back to you. Rapid tests can give you a result almost immediately (up to 30 mins) whereas tests that are analyzed in a lab will take up to a week.

How to read HIV test results?

If your results come back as negative or non-reactive, you do not have HIV. If your results are positive or reactive, you have HIV.

How do you get tested for HIV?

You can arrange an HIV test with your doctor or at a sexual health clinic. Depending on your state, there may be other options available to you. Speak with your doctor to find out your options.

How do you test for HIV?

HIV tests are conducted on the blood or oral fluids (saliva). This can either be done at home yourself using the finger prick or swab method, or a laboratory can analyze a larger sample of your blood.

Can you be HIV positive and test negative?

A negative result from a person that is actually positive is called a false-negative. The chance of getting a false-negative (or a false-positive) depends on the accuracy of the test, which varies even between tests of the same type.

What does non reactive HIV test mean?

Non reactive results of an HIV test mean you are HIV-negative and do not have the virus.

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The content offered on is intended for informational purposes only and not as medical advice. For medical advice you should consult an appropriately licensed and qualified medical professional. If you are experiencing acute or distressing symptoms or life threatening symptoms you should immediately call 911 and/or go to the nearest emergency medical facility.

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Last updated: 1/18/2022, 9:10:24 PM