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About HIV Testing

The quickest and most common HIV screening test used today is the ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay). It is a simple blood test that detects the presence of HIV antibodies. If this test is positive for HIV antibodies, another test called a Western Blot is done to confirm the positive result. When both ELISA and the Western Blot are positive ("HIV-positive"), it is 99.9% certain there is HIV infection.

Anonymous HIV Testing means that no name is ever given to the testing center and only the person who is having the test is aware of the results. You may check with the CDC National AIDS Hotline (1-800-342-AIDS) for the most up-to-date information on where to obtain anonymous HIV testing.

Oral HIV antibody tests, using samples of saliva from the mouth, are accurate and approved alternatives to blood tests.  However, most of the advertised "home HIV-testing" tests are unapproved, possibly inaccurate, and do not offer pre or post-test counseling to those tested. At present the FDA has only approved one home collection test kit, called the "Home Access Express HIV-1". While this allows individuals to collect samples at home, the samples must still be sent to a laboratory for routine analysis.

After HIV Testing
If no HIV antibody is detected, you are considered "HIV-negative". However, recent exposure to HIV may not initially show up on the test. For this reason, it is recommended that those with initial "HIV-negative" results should be tested again in six months. Having two successive negative HIV tests is good news. The goal then, is to stay negative forever by practicing safer sexual practices and protecting yourself from direct blood contact.

If the HIV antibody test is positive, you are considered "HIV-positive". Being "HIV-positive" does not mean that you have AIDS, but it does mean that you have become infected with HIV and that you can pass the infection to someone else.

A positive test is scary news, but it's not the end of the world. It is a medical alert to you, that positive action needs to be taken to maintain your health and protect those close to you from infection. Even though you may feel fine physically, the virus has already begun replicating and damaging your immune system. A very important first step is to promptly establish medical care with a practitioner experienced in treating HIV. With the right approach, HIV infection can be managed just like other chronic illnesses.

After The Diagnosis: Where To Go and What To Do
Learning you are HIV-positive can be overwhelming.  Fortunately, most testing centers, health departments, and clinics offer counseling and guidance for adults or families regarding the next steps to take.

Most communities offer HIV services that provide emotional counseling, support groups, financial counseling, housing services and directories for medical care. Your first step is to seek a practitioner who is experienced in treating HIV and with whom you feel comfortable. This is a life-long illness, that requires ongoing treatment.  Having a medical care provider that you trust and with whom you feel comfortable is important.

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