What is an HIV lab test?
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a viral infection that damages your body’s immune system. HIV is transmitted through sexual contact or contact with infected blood. Pregnant women may pass this disease to their unborn child, or through breastfeeding. HIV is the early stage of the infection that may progress to become AIDS. If left untreated, HIV usually develops into AIDS within 8-10 months - once the virus has severely damaged the immune system.
HIV/ AIDS dramatically affects your body’s ability to fight infection. Individuals managing AIDS may become fatally ill from a disease that causes mild symptoms in healthy individuals.
Deaths caused by HIV/ AIDS have decreased in the last 10-20 years, however, the disease is still deadly if left untreated. Early detection can help you and your doctor slow the progression of the illness through medication.
No HIV test can detect HIV immediately after exposure. The tests used to diagnose HIV are usually employed within 10-90 days after infection. If you believe you may have been exposed to HIV in the last 72 hours, contact your doctor to schedule a post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) appointment. PEP involves taking medication for 28 days after possible exposure to prevent HIV.
You may elect to undergo PEP if:
- You had unprotected sex with someone who may be infected, or if the condom broke during sex
- If you have shared needles, syringes, or injection equipment (most common in narcotic drug users)
- You have been sexually assaulted
If you are worried that you may have been exposed to HIV, talk to your doctor about scheduling a test to diagnose the disease. Specific instructions for timing and preparation will be given depending on your symptoms, and the timing of your exposure.