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Human Immunodeficiency Virus Antibody Test or HIV Test screens the HIV infection. Though there is no cure, early treatment of HIV infection can improve the immune system which may result in long term health and survival.
Most of the HIV tests detect HIV I while there are some other test available that detect HIV-2 as well (world over HIV I is the most common type found). Combination test which help to detect HIV infection soon after the infection occurs is also been developed. In the combination test, the levels of HIV antigen called p24 is normally high.
The current testing protocols involve an initial screening test that uses a method called an immunoassay (IA) . If positive, the HIV antibody immunoassay test is repeated. It is a sensitive type of test but currently requires a second test method, usually a western blot, to confirm the results because false positive can occur.
Timing of testing after suspected exposure is important. Antibody testing will not detect HIV immediately after exposure, during the window before the development of antibodies. The window period typically lasts from 2 to 8 weeks after exposure. If someone is tested too soon, the result may be negative despite the fact that the person is infected and can transmit the disease to others. If an HIV test is negative but suspicion of exposure remains high, then repeat testing at a later time (usually 3 months after possible exposure) may be required. If available, a p24 antigen testmay be performed, or a newer combination test that detects HIV antibody and p24 antigen may be ordered.