Why test for HIV?
When it comes to HIV disease, knowledge is power. Testing is the first step in helping people who are infected receive appropriate treatment. HIV disease commonly involves a lengthy period - as long as a decade - between infection and the development of symptoms. People who know they are HIV infected can be monitored for changes in their condition and for possible treatment, even before symptoms appear.
With the advent of new drugs to treat HIV and AIDS, testing is more important than ever. Early detection of HIV, followed by certain drug combinations, can greatly improve both the quality and quantity of life.
Testing is an important tool in the efforts to curtail the spread of HIV. Individuals who know they are infected with HIV can also aid prevention efforts by taking the necessary precautions to avoid spreading the disease through unprotected sex or sharing needles.
When should I get tested?
Wait three months from the time you think you may have become infected with HIV. Avoid further risky behavior during the period before you are tested. Why? A window period exists between the time when an individual is infected with HIV and when antibodies to the virus can actually be measured. Most people develop detectable levels of antibodies to the virus within six weeks of becoming infected. This window may be a few weeks or up to three months before infected individuals may test positive. During the window period, your test result may show negative even though you are infected. An individual is capable of transmitting the virus while in the window period.
If you test negative but continue to engage in high-risk activities (having sex with people who have HIV or who are unsure of their HIV status or sharing needles and syringes), get re-tested every three to six months.
What do tests tell?
The most commonly used tests measure antibodies developed in response to HIV infection. The ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test is the most commonly used screening test. The antibody Western blot is the most commonly used confirmatory test.
How accurate are the ELISA and the HIV antibody Western blot?
When used together, the results from this two-part testing are greater than 99% accurate.
What is the difference between confidential and anonymous testing?
Confidential Testing: The confidential testing site records the person's name with the test result. Records are kept secret from everyone except medical personnel or, in some states, the state health department.
Anonymous Testing : No name is given. The person getting tested is the only one who can tell anyone else his/her test results.
Kentucky State Law requires all county health departments to offer, upon request, anonymous HIV testing to all citizens.