Which medical tests are undertaken to diagnose HIV?

Dr. Raveendran SR

Medical Microbiologist
Various diagnostic tests are available to determine if an individual is HIV positive. • Antibody Screening Tests: Also known as ELISA tests, you’re screened for a certain protein that the body produces in response to the HIV infection. Although these tests cannot detect an early infection, they are accurate in their diagnostic results. ELISA tests require blood sample, fluids from the mouth (other than saliva) or urine to test a person for HIV infection. • Antigen/Antibody Combination Tests: These tests check for HIV antibodies and p24, a viral protein and a distinctive HIV antigen that will be present in the body after 2-4 weeks from contracting the infection. Antibody combination tests can catch HIV infection earlier than antibody screening tests. • RNA Test: This test screens the body for HIV virus and is able to detect the infection around 10 days after a person contracts it. Being costly, it is usually preferred for high-risk cases and when flu-like symptoms are present. • Tri-Dot Test: This is a rapid HIV antibody test that is very accurate and sensitive at detecting HIV infection. Getting a negative result means that you are HIV-negative. It is a visual enzyme immunoassay (EIA) for detecting antibodies to HIV 1 (against gp120 and gp41) and HIV 2 (against gp36) Follow-up Screening A person is tested positive when traces of HIV are present in his/her body. A standard lab test is essential to confirm the diagnosis if the first screening was a rapid test. In case a lab test was taken, more detailed testing is performed on the blood sample to confirm a case. These include indirect immunofluorescence assay or western blot, and antibody differentiation, between HIV-1 and HIV-2. If you suspect being infected, you can discuss the various tests with your doctor. Alternatively, you can visit an Integrated Counseling and Testing Center (ICTC) which are units at hospitals and other health facilities to test and counsel individuals for HIV.
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