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HIV / AIDS
What tests are available to see if someone is infected with HIV?
The most common type of test is an HIV antibody test. These tests are done by taking blood and seeing if there are antibodies to HIV (the immune system’s response to infection). The basic procedure consists of a first test, called ELISA, which stands for enzyme-linked immunoabsorbant assay. A positive result means that HIV antibodies are present and it is then assumed, so is HIV. If the result is positive, the test is repeated. If the second ELISA is positive, a more sensitive confirmatory test is then conducted. This is usually a Wesyern Blot or IFA (immuniflourescent assay). If the confirmatory test is positive, the individual is then told they are infected with HIV. If the initial ELISA is negative, no other tests are performed and the individual is considered HIV negative.
More recently, an oral test has been developed and is being used more and more, particularly in non-clinic settings. The OraSure test consists of taking a swab from inside the cheek and gums in order to draw HIV antibodies out of the tissues. The virus itself is rarely found in oral fluid. This type of sample is called mucosal ransudate. The OraSure test is considered to be as accurate as the blood tests, both of which have better than 99% accuracy.
A newer, rapid antibody test has also been developed, called OraQuick. Typically, this has been used with blood samples (from a finger prick) and results can be obtained in 20-40 minutes. The newest version, the OraQuick Advanced test, uses an oral- fluid swab and is just as rapid as the blood version.
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