What Is HIV and What Is The Process That a Person Has to Go for an HIV Test?

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Human immunodeficiency virus is a slowly – replicating retrovirus. It causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) a condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive. AIDS is the late stage of HIV infection, when a person’s immune system is severely damaged and has difficulty fighting diseases and certain cancers. HIV tests are used to detect the presence of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), in serum, saliva or urine. Such tests tell you if you are infected with HIV or not. According to a rough estimate given by the World Health Organisation (WHO), as of 2000, inadequate blood screening had resulted in 1 million new HIV infections worldwide.

1 in 4 new HIV infections occurs in youth aged between 13-24 years, according to CDC.

There are two types of HIV virus, the HIV-1 and the HIV-2. Unless noted otherwise, in the United States, the term “HIV” primarily refers to the HIV-1. HIV-2 infections are predominantly found in Africa.

Both HIV-1 and HIV-2 works by infecting and lowering the levels of the CD4+T cells, cells which are crucial to help the body fight diseases. When CD4+T cell numbers decline below a critical level, the body becomes progressively more susceptible to opportunistic infections. HIV-1 and HIV-2 appear to package their RNA differently. Tests indicate that HIV-1 is better able to mutate (HIV-1 infection progresses to AIDS faster than HIV-2 infection and is responsible for the majority of global infections).

HIV is spread through blood and genital fluids, including pre-seminal fluids and semen or breast milk. One can become infected with HIV by engaging in unprotected sex or other types of sexual behavior with an HIV-positive person, or by sharing needles, syringes or other injection equipment with someone who is infected with HIV.

It generally takes a little while to get accurate results from an HIV test. This is because the blood tests that you take are not testing for the presence of HIV itself in your blood but are instead testing for the antibodies that your body creates in an attempt to fight the virus. Many HIV-positive people are unaware that they are infected with the virus.

The amount of time required for antibodies to show up on HIV tests is highly variable, as they can show up as early as two weeks or as late as six months. During that period, you can test HIV negative even though you are infected with the virus. You can still catch HIV from someone who is in the window period. Since donors are unaware of their infections, donated blood and blood products used in medicine are routinely checked for the HIV virus.

Both you and your partner should get tested for HIV and know your status before having sex for the first time. Pregnant women should be positively tested during each pregnancy. If the mother is infected with HIV, care should be taken of minimizing the chance of passing the virus to the baby. Medicines are available today, which taken properly during pregnancy can surely lower the risk of passing the HIV virus to the baby.

The most commonly used HIV test is a blood test. Blood will first be tested using the ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test. If antibodies to HIV are present in the serum, they may bind to these HIV antigens.

ELISA results are reported as a number. If ELISA test is positive, the results will be confirmed using the Western Blot test, which tests only for HIV antibodies. In the United States such ELISA results are not reported as ‘positives’, unless confirmed by a Western Blot test. Newer HIV tests can detect HIV antibodies in mouth fluids (not saliva), a scraping from inside the mouth or urine. In 2012, the FDA approved the first “in-home” HIV test. It uses a mouth swab and show results in 30-40 minutes. Any positive test result should be confirmed by a lab using the Western Blot.

After a negative sixth-month test, it is recommended that individuals get one final check done six months later to confirm the results. If the results are still negative, it is almost certain that the person is not infected with HIV.

HIV is similar to other viruses, such as those that cause cold and flu, with one important difference – the human body cannot get rid of HIV. That means. If you get HIV, you get it for LIFE.

Right now we are at a critical moment in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

AIDS used to be a death sentence, but now more than 8 million people are on life-saving treatment. By 2015, with the scale up of treatment and prevention for HIV, we could see the beginning of the end of AIDS.

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Source by Sounak K Ghosh

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