AIDS Serology

There are multiple tests to detect the antibody to HIV. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. The U. S. Public Health Service requires that an enzyme immunoassay (EIA) and another confirming test such as a Western blot or an immunofluorescence assay be used to be certain that a person has evidence of an HIV infection.

ELISA, an EIA test that stands for enzyme linked immunosorbent assay, tests for antibodies to HIV in the blood. It does not detect viral antigens (pieces of the virus themselves). Because of this it cannot detect infection in the earliest stages when the body has not formed antibodies yet to fight off the infection. This period of time may vary from a couple weeks to 6 months. This time period is important because during this period of time a person with a negative test can still be HIV infected and still give the disease to another person.

PREPARATION FOR TEST

No preparation or fasting is required. A blood sample is taken by a needle from a vein.

NORMAL FINDINGS

A normal value is a negative test. This means that at this time, your test does not show you have an HIV infection. Remember, it is possible to have an HIV infection and not test positive in the beginning of the infection so it is important to have the test repeated, and sometimes up to 6 months following exposure.

No evidence of HIV antigen or antibodies.

Ranges for normal findings may vary among different laboratories and hospitals. You should always check with your doctor after having lab work or other tests done to discuss the meaning of your test results and whether your values are considered within normal limits.

MEANING OF TEST

Your caregiver will go over your test results with you and discuss the importance of this test. A positive test for HIV today does not have nearly the significance of ten years ago. There are many new and very successful treatments available. Although this is true, an HIV infection is still a fatal illness. There is no known cure. All precautions should be taken to avoid passing this on to someone else or a loved one through unprotected sex.

OBTAINING THE TEST RESULTS

  • Make sure you receive the results of your test. Ask how these results are to be obtained if you have not been informed. It is your responsibility to obtain your test results.

  • Your caregiver will discuss your findings with you and the value of this test to you. Your caregiver will provide further instructions or treatment options if necessary.

  • Other tests are now available for detecting HIV which use oral fluids or saliva. These tests are the oral mucosal transudate (OMT) tests. They use the same technology as the ELISA and Western blot tests. Urine is also tested now for HIV.

  • If home tests are used for concerns about an HIV infection it is important to follow up and understand your results. Some of the home tests provide toll-free pre-test and post-test counseling. If you have a test result you are concerned about, get help or counseling from your caregiver. Remember, it is possible to have an HIV infection and not test positive in the beginning of the infection so it is important to have the test repeated, and sometimes up to 6 months following exposure. This precaution is repeated because it is very important.