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HIV-1/HIV-2 Rapid Screen

Does this test have other names?

Rapid HIV antibody test

What is this test?

This test looks for HIV infection in your blood or saliva.

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. About 20 percent of people who are infected with HIV don't know it because they may not have symptoms. HIV comes in two forms: HIV-1, which is found worldwide, and HIV-2, which is mainly found in western Africa, although it has spread to the U.S.

This test is one of several tests that look for HIV infection. Some of these tests take a few days for results, but rapid HIV tests can give your results in about 20 minutes. Getting an early diagnosis of HIV is important because you can start treatment early and also take steps to keep from spreading the virus to others.

Why do I need this test?

You may have this test if your doctor suspects that you have HIV infection. These are signs and symptoms of HIV infection:

  • Sudden weight loss

  • Night sweats or fever

  • Extreme tiredness

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • White spots in your mouth or throat

  • Chronic diarrhea

  • Pneumonia

  • Reddish splotches on your skin or in your mouth

  • Forgetfulness

  • Depression

You may also have this test if you are at risk for HIV. The CDC recommends HIV testing for these groups:

  • People who have had unprotected sex with multiple partners, with men who have sex with men, or with strangers

  • People who have had sex for money or drugs

  • People who inject drugs or steroids or share their injecting equipment with others

  • People who have been diagnosed with hepatitis, tuberculosis, or a sexually transmitted disease (STD)

  • People who have had unprotected sex with anyone who might have the above risk factors

You may also have this test if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

Some people who aren't in a high-risk group choose to be tested just to be sure they don't have HIV.

What other tests might I have along with this test?

Your doctor may also order tests for other STDs. If the results of the rapid HIV test are positive, your doctor will order another test to confirm the findings.

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.

Rapid tests for HIV change color if they detect antibodies that your immune system has created against HIV infection.

Normal results are negative, meaning that no antibodies were found and that you may not be infected with HIV. Most people who become infected with HIV will develop antibodies to the virus within two months. During this time, you may have HIV but this test can't detect it. You may want to repeat the test more than three months after your possible exposure if your results are negative.

A positive result means that HIV antibodies were found and that you may have HIV.

You may get a false-positive result if you are infected with hepatitis A or B or the Epstein-Barr virus. You may also have a false-positive result if you have rheumatoid factor in your blood because of rheumatoid arthritis or another condition.

How is this test done?

Rapid HIV testing requires either a sample of blood drawn by putting a needle into a vein in your arm or pricking a finger. One type of test can be done using a sample of your saliva, which your doctor gets by rubbing a special swab against your gums.

Does this test pose any risks?

Taking a blood sample with a needle carries risks that include bleeding, infection, bruising, or feeling dizzy. When the needle pricks your arm, you may feel a slight stinging sensation or pain. Afterward, the site may be slightly sore.

What might affect my test results?

Having the test too soon after you are infected with HIV may give you a false-negative result.

Having given birth multiple times may give you a false-positive result.

How do I get ready for this test?

You don't need to prepare for this test.