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HIV Testing: Types of Tests, Results, Timing, & Pricing

Max Lab

Jul 05, 2022

Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, is a virus that was first detected in humans in the late 1800s. The virus actively multiplies, infects, and attacks the cells of the immune system, which are called the CD4+T and are the key infection fighters of the immune system. As soon as HIV enters the human body, it begins destroying the cells of the immune system, even as the body does not display any symptoms. If a person loses too many immune cells, the body becomes weak and faces a lot of difficulty in fighting off infections and other diseases. Unless the presence of the virus is detected with an HIV blood test performed in time, it can lead to the development of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome or AIDS. While tests like the rapid HIV test can help detect the virus, once a person has been infected with HIV, there is no effective cure for the infection. However, with a timely diagnosis of HIV and proper treatment plans, HIV can be managed to ensure the infected individual can live a close to normal life. An HIV test is the only way to detect the presence of the virus and there are various types of HIV tests that can help with screening for the condition. 

How Does HIV Spread?

HIV does not spread through casual contact, like by sharing food, utensils, bedding, etc. or through insects, like mosquitoes, bugs, etc. HIV is essentially a sexually transmitted disease which attacks a person’s immune system, rendering it unable to fight illnesses in the long run. Some of the common ways in which HIV can spread include:

  • Blood transfusions performed using blood from an HIV-infected person
  • Using contaminated needles
  • Unprotected sexual contact
  • Having several sexual partners whose sexual history is not known

The Signs and Symptoms of HIV

Many people don’t develop any symptoms of HIV when they are first infected with the virus. Some people may exhibit flu-like symptoms within two to four weeks of exposure to the virus. Some of the common symptoms that may indicate the need for a rapid HIV test include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Enlarged or swollen lymph nodes
  • Headache
  • Muscle Pain
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Neurologic issues
  • Sore throat
  • Rashes on the abdomen, legs, arms, and face
  • Fungal infections in the mouth

These symptoms may disappear within a week or month as well. If a person has been infected by the virus, they are required to undergo regular tests for HIV at a testing centre to keep the infection in check and to prevent other complications. For proper diagnosis, an HIV test is the only way.

Types of HIV Test Procedures

Available at a reasonable price in India, HIV and AIDS tests involve the collection of blood or oral fluid sample. The price of the HIV test will however vary, based on the test you choose and the panel it is a part of. From the antigen/antibody combo test, HIV 1 and 2 to the Nucleic Acid Test (NAT), here are the most common options for screening for the virus:

  • Nucleic Acid Test (NAT)

The test procedure of this HIV test involves drawing a blood sample from a vein and checking it for the presence of the HIV virus. This HIV blood test can evaluate if a person has HIV and the amount of virus present in the blood. Nucleic Acid Tests can detect HIV sooner than any other test and are performed in case of high-risk exposure to HIV or if a person is showing early symptoms of HIV.

  • Antigen/Antibody Test

Also known as the HIV 1 and 2 test, this test checks for HIV antibody and antigen presence in the blood sample. Antibodies are produced by the immune system when the body is exposed to a virus, whereas antigens are foreign substances that trigger the immune system.

  • HIV Antibody Test

The HIV antibody test looks for the presence of antibodies in the blood produced by the immune system in a bid to fight off the HIV virus.

  • HIV Strains

There are mainly two types of HIV strains that are prevalent in the world:

  1. HIV-1 Strain: The most infectious strain of HIV and the one most commonly found in India.
  2. HIV-2 Strain: This strain is relatively uncommon and less infectious than HIV-1. The HIV-2 strain is mostly found in West Africa and other countries.

Understanding the HIV Blood Test Results

It is important to understand that not all cases of HIV infection turn into AIDS. On receiving one’s HIV test results, no time must be wasted in consulting a doctor, who will be able to perform a proper diagnosis of the condition and suggest the right course of action.

  • Positive Test Results

A positive HIV report means that traces of HIV have been detected in the blood sample. A positive HIV test result does not always mean that the person has AIDS, which generally develops in the most advanced stages of HIV. Timely treatment can help manage the condition and protect the immune system, so the infection does not lead to the development of AIDS.

  • Negative Test Results

A negative HIV report is no reason to get lax. One must still take all the necessary precautions to ensure they are protected from the HIV virus. This includes safe sexual practices as well.

The price of an HIV test is very affordable and since timely diagnosis is key to managing the infection properly, a test must not be avoided if one fears exposure to the virus or is exhibiting symptoms of the same.

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