Find Out If you need a HIV Screening

HIV Screening: Do You Need One? Find Out!

Authored by DesiMD Doctor on 27 Nov 2015 - 17:15


In terms of the individuals infected, India is home to the third largest number of people living with HIV in the world. Majority of the vast HIV infections in India occur through sexual transmission accounting to about 85.6 per cent.  However, efficient screening and better drug availability have drastically reduced the prevalence of HIV. Everyone between 16 and 64 can get a HIV test done once a year, if sexually active.

Are you at risk for HIV? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you had unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex (e.g., intercourse without a condom, oral sex without a latex barrier)?
  • Have you shared needles to inject street drugs or steroids or to pierce your skin?
  • Have you had a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or unwanted pregnancy?
  • Have you had a blood transfusion or received blood products before April, 1985?

If you are suspicious or not sure about your exposure to the above factors, getting a HIV test is a must. Even otherwise, getting screened for HIV does not harm.

How does taking a HIV test help?

Taking the HIV antibody test does not harm whether or not you are exposed to the above referred risk factors. Getting tested for HIV will only tell you whether or not you have it. A positive HIV test result does not mean that a person has AIDS. With effective screening and new treatments available, finding out your HIV status early on, can extend your life.  A diagnosis of AIDS is made by a physician using certain clinical criteria (e.g. AIDS indicator illnesses).

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). Those affected by HIV can pass on the virus from one person to another through various channels such as:

a) Blood

b) Using shared needles and

c) Unprotected sexual contact

Further, infected pregnant woman can pass HIV to her baby during pregnancy or delivery, and also through breast-feeding. Those infected by HIV infection often develop AIDS.
The following body fluids have also been proven to spread HIV:

  • Blood
  • Semen
  • Vaginal fluid
  • Breast milk
  • Other body fluids containing blood.

Other additional body fluids that may transmit the virus that healthcare workers may come into contact with are:

  • Cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and the spinal cord
  • Synovial fluid surrounding bone joints
  • Amniotic fluid surrounding a fetus.

What are the HIV Tests?

Several tests are available to detect the infection with HIV the pathogen responsible for AIDS. 
If infected by HIV, the person’s serum, saliva, or urine are detected by HIV tests.

Some of the HIV tests are:

Antibody Tests

HIV tests are used for routine diagnosis of HIV among adults. HIV antibody tests are accurate and not expensive. Most people develop detectable HIV antibodies (special proteins produced by the body’s immune system against agents called antigens) within 6 to 12 weeks of infection.

The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), or enzyme immunoassay (EIA) was the first HIV test to be widely used. The sensitive ELISA tests can detect very small amounts of HIV antibody. But their ability to distinguish HIV antibodies from other antibodies is low. Hence there are chances that a result can be ‘false positive’ (although a person may not be infected with HIV, their antibody test show positive results).

Hence, as a way to prevent such complications due to false positive results, Western Blot is performed to confirm the results. Western Blot test searches for specific proteins.

Rapid HIV tests

The basic principle used in this test is the same as that is used in ELISA. They are not devoid of false positives either. Rapid tests are convenient to use, simple and quick (results come in 20 mins), can be performed without laboratory facilities or skilled staff.  Only the Western Blot technique confirms the positive results. 

Antigen Tests
The antigen on HIV that is routinely tested is called the protein P24 (Antigens are substances that trigger the production of antibodies in the body) which is produced in excess early in the course of infection and is detectable in the blood stream. The levels may be undetectably low in established infections and therefore used in early infection. P24 antigen tests are low sensitivity and therefore not opted much. They are useful only in early infection. 

Nucleic-acid-based tests (NAT)
NATs is an expensive test which detect specific nucleic acid sequences located in specific HIV genes. 

Polymerase Chain Reaction test (PCR test) 
This test can identify HIV in the blood within two or three weeks of infection. 

It's never too late to get screened for HIV. It helps to manage it effectively and also become cautious about safe practices to prevent it from infecting you.


Referemce:National AIDS Control Organization

*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.