Diagnosis of HIV/AIDS
Diagnostic Test list for HIV/AIDS:
The list of medical tests
mentioned in various sources as
used in the diagnosis of HIV/AIDS
- HIV antibody blood test - though the test sometimes cannot detect HIV for 6 months; sometimes not till 15 months for infected infants.
- Immune tests
- PAP smears - needed more often to check for cervical cancer in women.
Tests and diagnosis discussion for HIV/AIDS:
Backgrounder -- HIV Infection in Infants and Children: NIAID (Excerpt)
HIV infection is often
difficult to diagnose in very young children. Infected babies, especially
in the first few months of life, often appear normal and may exhibit no
telltale signs that would allow a definitive diagnosis of HIV infection.
Moreover, all children born to infected mothers have antibodies to HIV,
made by the mother's immune system, that cross the placenta to the baby's
bloodstream before birth and persist for up to 18 months. Because these
maternal antibodies reflect the mother's but not the infant's infection
status, the test is not useful in newborns or young infants.
recent years, investigators have demonstrated the utility of highly
accurate blood tests in diagnosing HIV infection in children 6 months of
age and younger. One laboratory technique called polymerase chain reaction
(PCR) can detect minute quantities of the virus in an infant's blood.
Another procedure allows physicians to culture a sample of an infant's
blood and test it for the presence of HIV.
Currently, PCR assays
or HIV culture techniques can identify at birth about one-third of infants
who are truly HIV-infected. With these techniques, approximately 90
percent of HIV-infected infants are identifiable by 2 months of age, and
95 percent by 3 months of age. One innovative new approach to both RNA and
DNA PCR testing uses dried blood spot specimens, which should make it much
simpler to gather and store specimens in field settings. (Source: excerpt from Backgrounder -- HIV Infection in Infants and Children: NIAID)
HIV Infection and AIDS, An Overview, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID (Excerpt)
Because early HIV infection
often causes no symptoms, a doctor or other health care provider
usually can diagnose it by testing a person's blood for the presence
of antibodies (disease-fighting proteins) to HIV. HIV antibodies
generally do not reach detectable levels in the blood for one to
three months following infection. It may take the antibodies as long
as six months to be produced in quantities large enough to show up
in standard blood tests.
People exposed to the virus should
get an HIV test as soon as they are likely to develop antibodies to
the virus - within 6 weeks to 12 months after possible exposure to
the virus. By getting tested early, people with HIV infection can
discuss with a health care provider when they should start treatment
to help their immune systems combat HIV and help prevent the
emergence of certain opportunistic infections (see section on
treatment below). Early testing also alerts HIV-infected people to
avoid high-risk behaviors that could spread the virus to others.
Most health care providers can do HIV testing and will
usually offer counseling to the patient at the same time. Of course,
individuals can be tested anonymously at many sites if they are
concerned about confidentiality.
Health care providers
diagnose HIV infection by using two different types of antibody
tests, ELISA and Western Blot. If a person is highly likely to be
infected with HIV and yet both tests are negative, the health care
provider may request additional tests. The person also may be told
to repeat antibody testing at a later date, when antibodies to HIV
are more likely to have developed.
Babies born to mothers
infected with HIV may or may not be infected with the virus, but all
carry their mothers' antibodies to HIV for several months. If these
babies lack symptoms, a doctor cannot make a definitive diagnosis of
HIV infection using standard antibody tests until after 15 months of
age. By then, babies are unlikely to still carry their mothers'
antibodies and will have produced their own, if they are infected.
Health care experts are using new technologies to detect HIV itself
to more accurately determine HIV infection in infants between ages 3
months and 15 months. They are evaluating a number of blood tests to
determine if they can diagnose HIV infection in babies younger than
(Source: excerpt from HIV Infection and AIDS, An Overview, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID)
Women and HIV-AIDS: NWHIC (Excerpt)
A window period is a recommended waiting period to receive an accurate
HIV test result. Generally, it is a six-week to six-month period from the
moment of your last unsafe sex encounter to the moment that you receive a
HIV screening. This is the time your body uses to create antibodies in the
blood stream, which signify exposure to HIV. This process is known as
It is important when receiving an HIV test to ask what kind of test is
being used. Whenever someone is screened for HIV, two types of tests are
used. They are, 1) a reactive test, and 2) a confirmatory test. A reactive
HIV test indicates if HIV antibodies are in the blood (such as the Elisa
Test). A reactive test may give a false positive reading to anyone with
kidney or renal failure, to a woman that has had multiple pregnancies,
anyone receiving the influenza vaccine, or to anyone that has received
gamma globulin. When a reactive test has a negative result, that means no
HIV antibodies were detected. But in order to receive an accurate reading,
the CDC recommends you wait a specific window period: six weeks to six
months and either abstain from all sexual activity, or practice safe sex
in every sexual situation, and then get a confirmatory test, such as the
Western Blot Test.
A confirmatory test (such as the Western Blot) provides the HIV status
of a person. A positive test result on a confirmatory test means that the
person has been infected with HIV, has HIV antibodies in his or her blood,
and can infect others.
Being HIV positive does not mean that the person has acquired
immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) or that it is 100% guaranteed that the
person will get AIDS, though research has shown that it is likely to
(Source: excerpt from Women and HIV-AIDS: NWHIC)
Diagnosis of HIV/AIDS: medical news summaries:
The following medical news items
are relevant to diagnosis and misdiagnosis issues for HIV/AIDS:
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