HIV Antibody Test Accuracy

Submitted by Medical Health Test Team on October 16, 2012

To find out if you are infected with HIV there are numerous tests that can be used. HIV is a virus that is responsible for causing acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS. One of the tests that are most suitable for diagnosing HIV in adults is the HIV antibody test. These tests are extremely accurate and not expensive as well. One of the first tests to be used was the ELISA antibody test. This test is also known as the EIA (enzyme immunoassay).

HIV testing can be done at a clinic or at home so the accuracy of hiv testing is also important.

The body of a person infected with HIV produces proteins that help to fight this infection. These proteins are called antibodies. Thus, an HIV antibody test helps in finding these antibodies. The saliva, urine, or blood of the individual is examined for these antibodies. If the results are positive, it means that you are HIV positive. There are, however, two exceptions. In the first case, newborn babies for the first 18 months retain the antibodies they receive from the mother. Thus, their test results may be positive, but they could be HIV negative. The second instance when the test might return a false positive is if you have participated in any HIV vaccine trial.

It usually takes 6 to 12 weeks for the antibodies to be detected from the time you are infected. It could also take about 6 months in some rare cases.

The time period between the HIV infection and the time it takes for the antibodies to be produced is called the “window period”. In this period, you might get a result that is ‘false negative’, even though you might be infected with the virus. It is therefore best to go in for these antibody tests about three months from the time of any potential exposure to the HIV infection.

If your test results are negative after three months, then it means that you do not have the HIV infection. If at six months the test results are still negative, and there has been no exposure to chances of infection and there is no risk at all.

HIV antibody tests do an accurate job when it comes to finding out if you have HIV antibodies. Elisa tests are highly sensitive and are able to detect the HIV antibodies even in small amounts. These high levels of sensitivity could cause them to lose their ability to set apart HIV from other antibodies. In such cases your result may come back as ‘false positive’. Thus, you may not have the infection, but your results may be positive. It is therefore very important to conduct some follow-up tests in case your results are positive.

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