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HIV Basics and Diagnosis: Knowledge and Awareness for All

Having the basic knowledge of HIV has become crucial for everyone. Awareness often helps you take precaution. HIV or otherwise known as human immunodeficiency virus is responsible for causing HIV infection, a condition in which a person’s immune system gets weakened as the virus attacks and destroys the important cells in the body which fight infection and keep us healthy. Even though there is no complete cure for HIV, with proper medical care and lifestyle improvement, the infection can be effectively controlled.

It is noted that people in the US are more prone to HIV infection than others due to many factors as the choice of sex partners, risky behaviors, and lifestyle. At the first point, diagnosing the condition is crucial through the right methods.

HIV is primarily diagnosed by testing the blood or saliva of the patient for development of any antibodies to the virus. Once being infected, the body may take about 12 weeks to develop these antibodies, so the testing needs to be done accordingly to confirm.

Methods of diagnosis

At the latest, there is a test that checks for the ‘HIV antigen’, which is a protein produced by the infected virus soon after the infection. This is now considered to be the fastest and earliest method for diagnosing HIV. An early diagnosis can surely prompt people to take additional precautions to prevent any transmission.

Elisa Test

ELISA stands for enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, which is the most popularly used method for diagnosing HIV infection. If the ELISA application test is positive, next the Western Blot Test may be administered to reconfirm the presence of virus. If you doubt you have HIV despite finding the ELISA test negative, you need to do the testing again in a couple of months to get reassured.

Other tests

There are a few other tests which are approved for diagnosing HIV infection, and the results of these tests need to be reconfirmed by a doctor or medical professional.

  • Home test – The only approved home test by U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is the ‘Home Access Express Test’, for which you can buy the kit from the pharmacies.
  • Saliva test – In this, a cotton pad will be used to take saliva from the inner part of the cheek. It will be tested in a laboratory and it may take three days to get results. Even if the result is positive, it needs to be confirmed with a blood test.
  • Western Blot — This is a secondary blood test, which is very sensitive and is used to confirm the positive results of an ELISA test.
  • Viral Load test — This test is used to assess the volume of HIV in the blood. This test is used for early detection of HIV as well as during the treatment of HIV to analyze the progress of treatment. HIV gets detected by checking the DNA sequences which bind to those on the virus.

If you are diagnosed as HIV positive and start with the treatment, there are various types of tests administered by the doctors to determine the stages of the disease to implement adequate treatment modalities. The most common tests are CD4 count, viral load test, drug resistance test etc

Written by Walter Moore

Walter Moore is a healthcare specialist with many years of experience in Oncology with specialization in ELISA application for early detection of HIV and effective treatment modalities.

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