HIV testing

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:46 pm
An HIV test is used to learn if you've been infected with the human immunodeficiency (ih-mue-no-duh-FISH-en-see) virus, the virus that leads to AIDS. The most frequently-used HIV test is called ELISA (e-LIZE-uh), which looks for antibodies in your blood. If antibodies are present, the results are verified through a second, more specific test known as the Western Blot. The main disadvantage of the ELISA test is that results may take up to two weeks. An alternative method called the 'rapid test' can give a result in 30 minutes or less. Check with your doctor about availability of this test in your area. Most people infected with HIV will develop detectable antibodies in the first 25 days, yet it can be six months before the antibodies show up. So if an early test is negative, it's wise to be screened again, six months after your last possible exposure. By learning your HIV status early, you can reduce the risk of infecting others, and get medical care that may help you stay healthy longer. Tests are available at many hospitals and independent labs; to protect your privacy, some facilities offer anonymous testing. For more information on HIV testing, consult a health care specialist.

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