Diagnosing HIV Infection
As the body fights viruses, it creates substances called antibodies to that virus. Tests for HIV usually measure the presence of HIV antibodies in blood, urine, or saliva, rather than testing for the presence of HIV itself (1).
Main Types of HIV Tests
Benefits of HIV Testing
HIV testing is useful for:
Most HIV testing is combined with HIV risk reduction counseling and referral for HIV/AIDS treatment (if the person does have HIV). Counseling, Testing, and Referral (CTR), also known as Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT), is acknowledged around the world as an important and cost-effective strategy for getting people to change those behaviors that put them at risk for contracting HIV. Getting tested is also many people's first step on the way to getting treatment for HIV/AIDS (6, 7).
Increasing Access to HIV Testing
In the United States, many HIV-infected individuals do not get tested until late in their infections. As a result, they are already very sick when they first learn that they are HIV+. For example, of the 104,780 people who tested positive for HIV between 1994 and 1999, 41% developed AIDS within one year. (8) Additionally, many people who are tested do not return to learn their test results.
An emphasis on expanding access to testing and on providing prevention and care services for people infected with HIV can reduce new infections and lead to reductions in HIV-associated morbidity and mortality (8). Strategies to increase access to HIV testing include making HIV testing a routine part of medical care, and implementing new models for diagnosing HIV infections outside medical settings (4).
2. Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). HIV Infection and AIDS: An Overview. National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, October 2003. Retrieved on January 14, 2004 from http://www.niaid.nih.gov/factsheets/hivinf.htm.
3. Constantine, N. HIV Antibody Assays. HIV InSite Knowledge Base Chapter. San Francisco, CA: Center for HIV Information, University of California, San Francisco, 2001. Retrieved on December 1, 2003 from http://www.hivinsite.com/InSite.jsp?page=kb-02&doc=kb-02-02-01.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Advancing HIV prevention: The science behind the new initiative. 2003. Retrieved on January 27, 2004 from http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/partners/ahp_science.htm.
5. Roland, M.E., Fine, R., and Volberding, P.A. HIV antibody testing: Indications and interpretations. HIV InSite Knowledge Base Chapter. San Francisco, CA: Center for HIV Information, University of California San Francisco, 1998. Retrieved on December 1, 2003 from http://hivinsite.ucsf.edu/InSite?page=kbr-07-01-04&doc=kb-03-01-02.
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Revised Guidelines for HIV Counseling, Testing, and Referral: Technical Expert Panel Review of CDC HIV Counseling, Testing, and Referral Guidelines, 2001. Retrieved on December 4, 2003 from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5019a1.htm.
7. Family Health International (FHI). Fact Sheet: Voluntary Counseling and Testing for HIV, 2003. Retrieved on December 9, 2003 from http://www.fhi.org/en/hivaids/factsheets/vctforhiv.htm.
8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) . Advancing HIV prevention: New strategies for a changing epidemic – United States, 2003. MMWR 52(15): 329-332, 2003.
© Sociometrics Corporation, 2004