About HIV Tests

HIV Test Technology

HIV screening tests look for either antibodies or parts of the virus. If a screening test is reactive or positive, supplemental testing must be conducted to determine your HIV status.

Knowing what tests have been used to determine your HIV status is very important.  Some tests, called  "4th generation" HIV tests, can pick up infection in as little as 11 days after exposure. Other tests can't determine your status until HIV has been present in your body for many weeks.

Ask your testing provider about which type of test you are getting, and how sensitive it is. Be open and honest if you're concerned about a possible exposure that happened recently. Your provider may suggest a test that offers a more accurate result.

How HIV Tests work

Types of HIV Tests

  • Rapid Tests: These tests can provide results in less than 30 minutes. They are typically used in locations where the patient is waiting for a result. These tests can be blood based or use oral fluid (oral mucosal transudate - cells collected from between your cheek & gums).

  • Whole Blood/Serum Blood Test: With this type of test, blood is drawn from the patient and sent to a lab for processing. Results are typically available in a few days, although some tests take up to a week.

  • Home Tests: Home testing kits are HIV antibody tests that you can take in the privacy of your own home. Currently there are two home HIV tests available: the OraQuick In-home HIV test and the Home Access HIV-1 Test System.

    Testing Yourself for HIV-1, the Virus that Causes AIDS