… HIV-positive and other problems are present.
How To Prepare
You do not need to do anything before you have this test. Also, a test for HIV infection can’t be done without your consent. Most doctors offer counseling before and after the test to discuss:
- How the test is done, what the results mean, and any other tests that may be done.
- How the diagnosis of an HIV infection may affect your social, emotional, professional, and financial outlooks.
- The benefits of early diagnosis and treatment.
- Before the test, it is important to tell your doctor how and where to contact you when your test results are ready. If your doctor has not contacted you within 1 to 2 weeks of your test, call and ask for your results.
How It Is Done
The health professional drawing blood will:
- Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is easier to put a needle into the vein.
- Clean the needle site with alcohol.
- Put the needle into the vein. More than one needle stick may be needed.
- Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with blood.
- Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is collected.
- Apply a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as the needle is removed.
- Apply pressure to the site and then a bandage.
How It Feels
You may feel nothing at all from the needle puncture, or you may feel a brief sting or pinch as the needle goes through the skin. Some people feel a stinging pain while the needle is in the vein. But many people do not feel any pain (or have only minor discomfort) once the needle is positioned in the vein. The amount of pain you feel depends on the skill of the health professional drawing the blood, the condition of your veins, and your sensitivity to pain.
There is very little risk of complications from having blood drawn from a vein.
- You may develop a small bruise at the puncture site. You can reduce the risk of bruising by keeping pressure on the site for several minutes after the needle is withdrawn.
- In rare cases, the vein may become inflamed after the blood sample is taken. This condition is called phlebitis and is usually treated with a warm compress applied several times daily.
- Continued bleeding can be a problem for people with bleeding disorders. Aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), and other blood-thinning medicines can also make bleeding more likely.
- If you have bleeding or clotting problems, or if you take blood-thinning medicine, tell your health professional before your blood is drawn.
A human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) test detects antibodies to HIV or the genetic material (DNA or RNA) of HIV in blood or another type of sample. This determines whether an HIV infection is present (HIV-positive). ELISA results are usually available in 2 to 4 days. Results of the other tests, such as the Western blot or IFA, take 1 to 2 weeks.
Normal: No HIV antibodies are found. Normal results are called negative.
If an antibody test is done during the seroconversion period and is negative, repeat testing is needed. Most people have antibodies to HIV within 6 months after becoming infected. If a repeat test at 6 months is negative, there is no infection.
A PCR test to look for genetic material does not detect any RNA or DNA of HIV.
Uncertain: Test results do not clearly show whether a person has an HIV infection. This is usually called an indeterminate result. It may occur before HIV antibodies develop or when some other type of antibody is interfering with the results. If this occurs, a PCR test, which detects HIV RNA or DNA, may be done to see if the virus is present.
A person who still has indeterminate results for 6 months or longer is called “stable indeterminate” and is not considered to be infected with HIV.
Abnormal: HIV antibodies are found. These results are called positive.
A positive ELISA is repeated using the same blood sample. If two or more ELISA results are positive, they must be confirmed by a Western blot or IFA test.
A PCR test finds genetic material (RNA or DNA) of HIV.