HIV testing

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:47 pm
HIV (H-I-V) antibody testing is often incorrectly referred to as the 'AIDS' test. This name is misleading because testing positive for HIV does not mean you have AIDS. However, most, if not all, people infected with HIV will eventually develop AIDS. If you're concerned about a possible exposure to HIV, getting tested is extremely important. By knowing your HIV status, you can avoid spreading the virus to other people. Seeking early medical attention early can also help you maintain your health much longer. Routine testing for HIV involves two tests. The ELISA (e-LIZE-uh) test indicates that antibodies may be present. The Western Blot test confirms that the antibodies are definitely present. Kits are also available that allow you to test in the privacy of your own home. However, if choosing a home test, make sure it's approved by the FDA; many are not. You should also be aware that, regardless of testing method, HIV antibodies may not show up immediately after infection. While they're usually detectable within the first 25 days, it can take up to six months before they appear. For this reason, you may want to be re-tested six months following your last possible exposure, if an earlier test is negative. To guard against possible discrimination, some individuals prefer to be tested anonymously. Here, you're given a code that uniquely identifies your blood specimen and test results, without revealing your identity. For more information on HIV testing, consult a health care specialist.

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