Baton Rouge HIV Testing: Everything You Need to Know

June 23, 2022

HIV testingHIV is a virus that attacks the immune system. Human immunodeficiency virus, if left untreated, can lead to the development of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, commonly known as AIDS. While there is currently no cure for HIV, it can be controlled with proper medical care. This is why testing for HIV is a critical in order to address it and prevent its spread. Let’s take a closer look how HIV testing works.

When Should You be Tested for HIV?

There are a variety of high-risk behaviors that can increase the chances of contracting HIV, as well as many common symptoms. If an HIV infection has occurred, many people experience flu-like symptoms within two to four weeks. Other symptoms include:

  • Chills
  • Rash
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Swollen lymph nodes

These symptoms can last for only a few days or linger for several weeks. Certain lifestyles and behaviors can also enhance your risk of becoming infected with HIV. You should be tested as soon as possible if you’ve experienced the following:

  • Intercourse with a partner that has HIV
  • Had multiple sexual partners since your last HIV test
  • Been diagnosed with or treated for any other STDs
  • Been diagnosed or treated for tuberculosis or hepatitis
  • Used or shared needles or syringes for injecting drugs

If any of these activities are a part of your lifestyle, you should be tested at least once a year or more often.

What Types of HIV Tests are There?

There are three different types of HIV tests. These tests can be performed on blood, saliva, and possibly on urine. A nucleic acid test (NAT) seeks to find the actual virus in the blood, which involves drawing blood directly from the vein. This type of test can detect the presence of HIV sooner others, and it can determine how much of the virus is present, known as an HIV viral load test. Due to these capabilities, an NAT test is expensive and not typically used for screening.

HIV antibody tests are the only currently approved self-test and look for the antibodies in your blood or saliva. This can be done with a finger prick or a sample of oral fluid and can provide rapid results.

Antigen/antibody tests are used to discover both antibodies and antigens. Antibodies are produced by the immune system if you are exposed to the virus. Antigens are foreign substances that appear and force your immune system to respond. This is a common type of test that is performed throughout labs across the country. An antigen known as P24 appears even before antibodies develop, signaling the contraction of HIV.

How Long Until Results are Available After an HIV Test?

Tests that require blood to be drawn from a vein, like NAT and antigen/antibody tests, take several days to be completed. These types of tests need to be sent to a laboratory for testing. However, rapid antibody testing done with blood from a finger prick or saliva, results can be available within half an hour. Oral fluid antibody tests can present results in less than 20 minutes.

How Quickly Can You Take an HIV Test After Exposure?

Immediate infection cannot be identified by any test, however, you if you have concerns about exposure, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. An NAT test can detect HIV between 10 and 33 days after exposure. An antigen/antibody test can determine an infection between 18 and 45 days after exposure. Regular antibody tests take between 23 and 90 days.

What Does a Negative HIV Result Mean?

After your HIV test, you’ll receive a result that is “positive” or “negative”. A negative result doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have HIV. The testing window based on the type of test that you received plays a key role. Your test can determine the presence of HIV between 10 and 90 days. If you have a test before this time period ends, you will need to have another test to confirm that you, in fact, do not have HIV. This time period resets if you are engaging in the high-risk behavior mentioned above, and you should be retested.

What Does a Positive HIV Result Mean?

Should you receive a positive test result you will need to have a follow-up test to confirm these results. Your lab can perform the follow-up test pending a positive result. If this second test is also positive, you have contracted HIV. With this prognosis, it is critical to consult your physician and begin a treatment plan to control the virus.

FASTLane at Lane Regional Medical Center has you covered for all of your testing and screening needs, including HIV.

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