Everything about HIV testing

An HIV test shows whether you are HIV positive. It usually is a hiv blood test. It takes up to three months before HIV can be detected in your blood. Only then the result is completely reliable. Here you can read about the hiv tests and how you get the results.

Why are you doing an HIV test?
You have been exposed to a risk; for example because of unsafe sex with someone who has HIV or by sharing needles when using drugs. You have symptoms that are similar to symptoms in HIV or someone you’ve had unsafe sex with in the past has warned you that he or she has HIV.
It is important that you do an HIV self-test as soon as possible. The sooner you know that you are HIV positive, the sooner you can start the treatment. And the sooner you are treated, the less likely you are to become ill and transfer HIV to someone else.

When do you do an HIV self-test?
Only after 3 months are you really sure that HIV is visible in your blood. But that does not mean that it makes no sense to do a test earlier. Because just after you are infected with HIV, you can easily transfer the virus. Do you have symptoms that resemble HIV symptoms? Then do an HIV self-test.

Regularly testing for HIV?
If and how often you should be tested, depends on the risk you were exposed to. Here are some examples of test recommendations:

  • You should be tested if you had an HIV risk situation. This also applies if you have symptoms that could indicate an HIV infection.
  • For men who have sex with men, We recommend that they be tested at least once a year for HIV (and other sexually transmitted diseases).
  • Pregnant women should definitely be offered an HIV self-test. If an infection is detected, one can avoid transmission to the baby.
  • Those who consume drugs intravenously, should clarify how often tests for HIV and hepatitis C are useful. Advice can be provided for example by drug counseling centers, substitution practices or checkpoints. Safer use protects against infection.
  • Anyone who wants to or wants to do PrEP for HIV prophylaxis must take an HIV self-test before starting, four weeks after starting and then every three months.

HIV negative
This is (for now) good news: there are no indications that you have been infected with HIV. If you have been at risk of having HIV until three months before the test, you can assume that the result is good and you actually haven’t been infected with HIV.

If in the meantime you have run the risk of HIV, the negative result is not 100% certain. For this reason, let yourself get tested on a regular base for HIV, when the three months are over.

Are you getting complaints that can fit in with a new HIV infection? Then let yourself be tested for HIV as soon as possible!

HIV positive
If you get the result ‘HIV positive’, this means that HIV has been detected in your blood. If the HIV-virus is found during an HIV self-test, an extra test should be done by default to confirm the negative result. This is also called a confirmatory test. If the extra test is also positive, then the test result is confirmed.

If you turn out to have HIV,then this is a strong message for most men. After the diagnosis, you should discuss this with doctor and he will tell you what this means for you. You will receive a referral to an HIV specialist for more information, advice and treatment. You have the opportunity to start treatment quickly. You should also warn the people you have had sex with!

Unclear test result
If you have just gotten HIV, an HIV self-test may sometimes incorrectly produces a negative result (‘meaning: no HIV’). How long this period lasts depends on the type of HIV test that you take. This is also called the window phase. If you have recently been infected with HIV, in most cases HIV is demonstrably in your blood after 6 weeks. With ome people it takes longer for HIV to be detectable. This can take up to three months. 
To prevent the HIV test from incorrectly indicating that you do not have HIV, a doctor or nurse will always advise you to repeat the HIV self-test three months after risky sex. If you have symptoms that can fit in with a recent HIV infection, have yourself tested immediately. This way you can be sure that you do or do not have HIV.

There are different kind of types of HIV tests
There are three types of tests to diagnose HIV infection: antibody testing, antigen / antibody testing, and testing of nucleic acids (NATs). However, most of them do not directly report HIV. They look in the blood for antibodies, which are usually already after six and at the latest after twelve weeks prove. These include HIV rapid tests, HIV self-tests, HIV transmission tests. Then there are HIV tests that directly detect HIV.
The window period is the time between the HIV infection and the accurate detection of HIV infection by the test. HIV self-tests can detect HIV infections, but not how long someone has been infected with HIV or that someone already has AIDS.

The essentials HIV test in brief

  • HIV laboratory test: Here, the blood sample taken is sent to the laboratory, a result is usually obtained after a few days. In the laboratory, a positive test result is confirmed directly. One can safely rule out HIV infection with the laboratory test after six weeks.
  • HIV rapid test: Quick tests have the advantage that you get a result after a few minutes. However, a positive result in the laboratory must be confirmed. You can certainly rule out HIV infection only after 12 weeks.
  • HIV self-test: Self-tests are a form of rapid test and can be performed independently, for example, at home.
  • PCR tests: The PCR test detects HIV directly. It is mainly used to control HIV therapy. However, he can also detect an HIV infection, namely one to two weeks after a possible infection. However, it costs allot of money.

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