4 Types of HIV tests

You’ve probably seen adverts or campaigns about the importance of knowing your HIV status, and yes knowing your status is very important but have you ever wondered if there are different types of HIV tests? Well, yes, there are Choma. Here are the 4 types of HIV tests that exist. 

Antibody test

When you get sick, your body starts producing specific antibodies (proteins that attach to the virus) that will try to fight off the virus. The antibody test looks for these antibodies in your oral fluid, urine or blood, and if these HIV antibodies are detected – that means your body is reacting to the infection. You should also do a second test to confirm your results. These tests can be finger-prick tests or blood/urine samples sent to a laboratory.

The only downside with this test is that it’s only accurate 3 months after exposure and it can take a few days to a few weeks to get the results. The time between infection and when your body makes antibodies is called the ‘window period’.

Combined antibody/antigen test

This test is also known as the 4th generation test. It looks for HIV antibodies as well as the p24 (short for protein 24) antigens. The p24 antigens are part of the virus and can be detected in your blood within the first few weeks after you have been infected. Unlike the antibody test, this one can detect the virus within a month after you have been infected and it usually takes a few days or weeks to get the results. 

Self-testing kits

HIV self-testing kits allow you to test whenever or wherever you want, even in the comfort of your own home. All you have to do is follow the instructions on the pack and you can get your results within 20 minutes. However, a positive result from this test isn’t enough to confirm whether you’re HIV positive or not, so it’s highly recommended that you visit your nearest healthcare provider so they can confirm the results for you, assist you with starting your treatment and offer you counselling. 

Rapid tests

Have you ever seen tents in your community where they offer finger-prick tests? They are called rapid HIV tests. They look for HIV antibodies by taking a prick of blood from your finger and they are usually accurate three months after being exposed to HIV. You can get the results within 20 mins, and if it’s a positive result – the healthcare provider doing the test will have to double-check by doing a second test. 

The uncertainty that comes with testing for HIV can make you feel uneasy and afraid of testing – especially with the myths and stigma attached to HIV. But the truth is, knowing your HIV status is the best decision that you can make for yourself. Don’t be afraid to get tested for HIV!

Remember, if you or a friend need advice or help, don’t hesitate to contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).