What is HIV?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that can lead to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). The virus is transmitted through contact with infected blood or certain bodily fluids.

What is a HIV test?

The HIV test is a blood test that detects the antibodies produced against the virus which causes AIDS.

How is the HIV test performed?

The HIV test is usually performed in people without any symptoms, as a screening test to exclude HIV infection. Examples include routine blood testing in pregnancy, and for puposes of immigration or medical insurance.

The HIV test should only be performed with the patient’s consent, with arrangements for counselling both before and after the test.

The test itself requires a sample of blood from a vein. Sometimes, results will be given at a planned appointment as a face-to-face consultation, rather than over the telephone or by mail.

Test results explained

HIV test results are reported as positive or negative.

Positive

A positive test indicates that infection with HIV is very likely – further testing may be needed to confirm this.

Negative

A negative test means that infection with HIV was NOT detected. In the early stages of HIV infection, antibodies against the virus may not have been produced by the body.

False negatives

The HIV test may be falsely negative (normal) in the so-called ‘window period’ between the time of infection and the time that the body’s immune response reacts to the virus by producing antibodies.

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Related specialists

Related procedures

  • Blood Test (venesection)

Related tests

Also known as

  • Human immunodeficiency virus
  • HIV Antibodies
  • HIV serology
  • HIV ELISA
  • HIV PCR
  • Retrovirus Serology

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This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If in doubt, HealthEngine recommends consulting with a registered health practitioner.