HIV antigen / antibody

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Also known as: AIDS test; AIDS screen; HIV serology
Formal name: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) antibody test

At a Glance

Why Get Tested?

To determine if you are infected with HIV

When to Get Tested?

Three to six months after you think you may have been exposed to the virus

Sample Required?

A blood sample collected from a vein in your arm

The Test Sample

What is being tested?

HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) by slowly destroying the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to debilitating infections. There are two types of HIV, HIV-1 and HIV-2.  HIV-2 is rarely encountered in Australia but is more common in West Africa. These HIV screening tests detect antibodies to both HIV-1 and HIV-2 in the blood. Antibodies to HIV are produced by the body and can usually be detected in the blood about 3 - 4 weeks after exposure to the virus and nearly always after 3 months.

How is the sample collected for testing?

Blood is drawn through a needle placed in a vein in your arm.

The Test

Common Questions

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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.

New reference: Manual of Clinical Microbiology, 10th Ed. ASM press 2011 (editor in chief James Versalovic).