National HIV Testing Day

HIV testing is an act of self-care. Encouraging people to get tested helps them stay safe. 

Today there's more free, easy, fast, and confidential HIV testing options avalaible than ever before. There are even self testing options available. Testing is a critical way to help end the HIV epidemic in the United States. 

CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as a part of your routine health care regimen. Even if you are in a monogamous relationship (both you and your partner are only have sex with one another), you should still be tested and find out if you, or your partner, has HIV. 

So what kinds of tests are available? 

1) The NAT (nucleic acid tests), look for the actual virus in the blood and involves drawing blood from a vein. A NAT can detect HIV sooner than other types of tests, however, this test is very expensive and not routinely used for screening individuals unless they recently had a high-risk exposure and are displaying early HIV symptoms. The NAT test can detect HIV infection 10-33 days after exposure. Results take several days. 

2) An antigen/antibody test looks for HIV antibodies and antigensl. Antibodies are produced by you immune system when you are exposed to viruses and antigens are foregin substances that cause your immune system to active. If you have HIV, an antigen called p24 is produced even before antibodies develop. The antigen/antibody tests are recommened for testing in labs and are common in the United States. This test involves drawing blood from a vein; there is also a rapid antigen/antibody test that's done via finger prick. This test can detect HIV infection 18-45 days after exposure via vein and 18-90 days via fingerprick. 

3) Antibody only tests are exactly what they sound like, they look for antibodies to HIV in your blood or oral fluid. Antibody tests that used blood from a vein can detect HIV sooner after infection than tests done with from a fingerprick or oral fluid. Most rapid self-tests are antibody only tests. This type of tests can take 23-90 days to detect HIV infection after exposure. 

Talk to your health care provider and see what type of HIV test is right for you.

Dr. Makunda Abdul-Mbacke

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