Types of HIV Tests Available Today
HIV is diagnosed using a blood test that is typically performed 1-3 months after exposure. Early Warning tests are also available that can detect HIV within 2 weeks of exposure.
Most people infected with HIV will develop antibodies in their bloodstream within 90 days of exposure to HIV.
People who have recently changed sex partners or who have engaged in high-risk behaviors (see above) should be tested at least once or twice a year.
To get tested, there are three different kinds of Herpes tests available that don’t require a visit to a doctor or hospital lab.
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Each has its own pros and cons, as follows:
1. At-Home HIV Test
Purchasing an at-home test kit is a cheap method of testing for HIV, but it is not as accurate as going through a local clinic or online STD test service.
Most at-home test kits are NOT FDA-approved, regardless of what you may read on a website. This doesn’t mean they don’t work, just that their results are not verified accurate by the FDA.
If you want quick results and the highest degree of accuracy on an HIV test, then you need to send your sample through a lab. Use an online STD test lab if this is what you need.
NOTE: if you test positive on an at-home test, then you will need to purchase a secondary lab test to confirm the result.
At-home HIV tests can be purchased online from the following two reputable vendors:
2. Online STD Test
Want to keep things confidential and still get extremely accurate results?
Then buying an online STD test service is a great choice.
Online HIV tests typically cost between $50 and $300.
STDCheck is the largest online test lab company in the US. They have a mobile friendly website & excellent customer reviews. Reasonable prices, too.
STDTestExpress is another solid choice with labs located in most major cities. Unlike other online labs, STDTestExpress bills your insurance provider directly, if you choose.
3. Free Test Clinic
- In the US: Find a Free STD Test Clinic near you (CDC Website)
- In the UK: FPA’s Clinic Locator
- In Canada: CFSH’s Point of Service Locator
- In Australia: MSHC’s STD Services Locator
- In New Zealand: Family Planning Service Finder
What Is HIV, exactly?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS (auto-immune deficiency syndrome).
AIDS is a very serious, deadly disease that continues to devastate lives and kill millions worldwide. If left untreated, HIV may destroy the immune system leading to pneumonia, cancer, secondary infections and ultimately, death.
After a widespread epidemic in the 1980s, today HIV is relatively rare in the US. Nearly 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV. About 20% of them don’t even know they are infected. Another 41,000 HIV infections occur in the United States every year.
Since HIV was first discovered, over 60 million people have been infected with the disease, of which 25 million have died (worldwide).
Due to investments in public education and the recent introduction of powerful new drugs, HIV and AIDS are no longer spreading rapidly in the US; however, in other parts of the world HIV infection remains a serious and growing health problem.
How Is HIV / AIDS Transmitted?
HIV is transmitted through the blood, sexual fluids or breast milk of an HIV-infected person.
All forms of sexual activity can transmit the HIV virus: anal, oral (giving or receiving) and vaginal.
Full sexual penetration is not required to transmit HIV.
Any contact with infected fluids can transmit the disease.
HIV Risk Factors
- The presence of other STIs
- Early age of first sexual activity
- Unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex
- Men who have sex with men
- Use of injectable drugs (via infected needles)
A person infected with HIV is considered infected for life, whether or not any AIDS symptoms exist.
Symptoms of an HIV Infection
HIV can be difficult to diagnose without an STD test for two reasons:
- Many people never experience AIDS-like symptoms, even when they are infectious.
- When a person develops AIDS symptoms, they can occur months or years after exposure.
A person does not necessarily have AIDS if s/he tests positive for HIV.
A diagnosis of AIDS must be made by a physician using the CDC AIDS Case Definition.
An AIDS diagnosis is typically made on the basis of contracting one of the CDC-defined AIDS indicator illnesses.
Or, a person infected with HIV may be diagnosed using blood tests (CD4).
Common Symptoms (AIDS)
- any illness exhibiting fever, rashes, joint pains and enlarged lymph nodes (may occur within weeks of initial infection)
- rare infections or cancers: tuberculosis, pneumonia, candidiases or tumors (years after initial infection)