Positive Vibes

TYPES OF HIV TESTS

There are 2 types of tests used to diagnose an HIV infection, tests that detect antibodies and tests that detect the HIV virus.

Antibody tests

Check for HIV antibodies in blood or oral fluid and are the most common tests used. These tests detect antibodies that the immune system produces against the virus. Most rapid tests are antibody tests. They are quick and cheap, and results are available within 30 minutes or less.

However, because it may take about 12 weeks for antibodies to develop after an HIV infection, an antibody test may not be accurate if taken within 12 weeks of potential exposure to HIV. Therefore, it is recommended that you test 12 weeks after possible exposure to HIV, when using an antibody test.

Talk to your healthcare provider about the best type of HIV test for you.

RNA tests

Check for the HIV virus in the blood. These tests can detect the virus itself. In contrast to the antibody test, an HIV RNA test can detect the virus within 9 to 11 days after an HIV infection. While these tests are quicker to detect the virus, they are expensive and not routinely used for HIV screening, unless the person had a high-risk exposure to HIV.

Talk to your healthcare provider about the best type of HIV test for you.