Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Antibody Test

This is a test to determine if you are infected with Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It is usually done one to three month after possible exposure. The average time for the antibody to be detected is two weeks. HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), which destroys the immune system and leaves the body vulnerable to debilitating infections. This test detects HIV antibodies in the blood. Antibodies to HIV are produced by the body and can be detected in the blood about 2–4 weeks after exposure to the virus.

SAMPLE REQUIRED

Blood is drawn through a needle placed in a vein in your arm. There also are tests available that can be performed on urine and/or oral fluid.

NORMAL FINDINGS

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 the test results with you and discuss the importance and meaning of your results, as well as treatment options and the need for additional tests if necessary. A healthy individual has no antibodies to HIV. If you test positive for HIV antibodies on both the ELISA and the Western Blot tests, you are considered to be infected with HIV.

Antibody testing will not detect HIV immediately after exposure, during the window before the development of antibodies. If you are tested too soon, your result may be negative despite the fact that you are infected (false negative). Because of this, repeat testing is important. You should have another HIV antibody test in 3–6 months from the time of a possible exposure to the virus.

If you are concerned that you have been exposed to an HIV infection, it is important that you do not have sexual contact (at least not unprotected) until you know that your test results are negative. If your results are positive you should seek counseling from your caregiver on the next steps to take in your care.

OBTAINING THE TEST RESULTS

It is your responsibility to obtain your test results. Ask the lab or department performing the test when and how you will get your results.