Basic principles of HIV testing
The PCR test is done between 2 weeks after exposure to the virus and 3 months after exposure. During this time the body has not made anti bodies against the virus yet and the PCR test wil look for the presence of the virus itself in the blood.
The Eliza test for HIV detects the presence of HIV antibodies in a person’s blood and not the virus itself. This test is done after 3 month after possible exposure to the virus.
These tests can be done in various ways:
- In a laboratory.
- A rapid Eliza test is done on the spot with a special test kit.
These tests are very sensitive and reliable.
Between the onset of HIV infection and the appearance of antibodies in the blood, is a window period. During this period the Eliza test will be negative although the person is already infected with the virus.
If a blood sample tests positive for HIV, it must always be followed by another test. Only after 2 different tests come up positive can we say that a person is HIV+.
False positive results
Because HIV tests are so sensitive a positive test will sometimes come up while there is no HIV antibodies in the blood. This is known as a false positive. Because of this, all positive results must be confirmed by another test method. If the second test is also positive it means that the individual is HIV+.
False negative results
A false negative result occurs when the blood tested gives a negative result for HIV antibodies when in fact the person is infected, and the result should have been positive.
In this situation, repeated testing over time may be necessary before they can be reassured that they are not infected with HIV. The most frequent reason for a false negative result is a test done during the window period before the person has antibodies. It is important to remember that someone who has a negative test can become infected the following day if they indulge in risky sexual behaviour!
KNOW YOUR HIV STATUS!
Voluntary counselling and testing or VCT is the availability of testing facilities for all people who want to know their HIV status.
The main benefits are:
If the tests are negative: It is an incentive to stay negative and modify sexual behaviour to prevent any risky sexual behaviour in the future.
If the tests are positive:
- They can plan for the future
- Make arrangements for the care of their children: – financially by making a will and socially by making sure somebody will care for them after the death of their parents.
- People have time to make peace with their HIV status and learn to cope with it emotionally
- If a woman is pregnant she can make sure she gets antiretroviral treatment to prevent infection of her baby
- People can care for themselves better. They can make sure they eat well and exercise regularly. They know to get help early for the management of opportunistic infections e.g. TB, STI etc. They can also have ARV’s the moment they need them.
- Patients can access preventative therapy e.g. flu vaccines and contraception.
- They can get social and peer support from others who are also HIV+.
- They can become involved in community programmes where they can play a role in behaviour change by talking to others about risky sexual behaviour.
- It normalizes the disease: it is just another illness that can be manage and people can learn to live and cope with. If HIV+ people know their status and talk about it, the stigma around the disease will go away.
Reasons people do not go for testing:
- People do not understand the benefits of knowing their HIV status
- They are concerned about confidentiality and job security, specially if they do not know their rights within the working environment
- Because of the stigma attached to being HIV+
- Fear of discrimination, violence and abuse from family and community
- Fear of a positive result
What does the test entail?
It is a blood test taken to test for HIV antibodies. If the antibodies are present it means the virus is there too. It is the only sure way to determine your HIV status.
If you are HIV negative, it is important to know how to keep your status negative. Remember, it takes up to two to three months after becoming infected for the antibodies to develop and show up in a test. It may need to be repeated if the test was too soon. Do not assume you are not infected until you had a confirmed result.
- Stay negative
- Know the facts about HIV/AIDS
- Treat any STI immediately
- Talk to your partners about HIV/AIDS
- Use condoms every time you have sex
- Be faithful to one uninfected faithful partner
- Explore other ways to have sex (thigh sex, masturbation alone or with your partner)
If you test positive what you need to do to live a healthier and longer life. A positive result cannot tell you when you will develop AIDS. It will give you the opportunity to have your immune system monitored and to receive treatment that will help to slow down the progression of HIV infection and protect you from other infections.
We do confidential HIV/AIDS testing. No results are given telephonically
Privacy & confidentiality : Patients preferring to stay anonymous may do so. We also offer advice to individuals recently diagnosed with HIV. If medical assistance is required, we refer to doctors specializing in the treatment of HIV positive patients.