Types Of HIV Tests & How They Work

doctor holding hiv test tube

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) is February 7, and one of the organization’s key focuses is to get Black people tested. Testing is critical for prevention of HIV in Black communities, particularly for those who are sexually active and those at high risk of contracting HIV. But, with so many tests available, how do you know which option is best for you?

Below is a breakdown of available tests from Aids.gov:

Antibody Screening Test (in the Lab)

The antibody screening test (or the immunoassay) is the most common HIV test. It doesn’t test for the virus directly and instead, looks to see how much antibodies your body produces to fight against HIV.

What to Consider: Even though the test can be done on blood or oral fluids, it’s most effective on blood. Also, oral fluids don’t include saliva.

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Rapid Test

Just like its name suggests, the rapid test provides results in 30 minutes or less. It’s also an immunoassay, which tests for antibodies.

What to Consider: Although the rapid test is a viable option, a lab test performed on blood may detect infection more quickly.