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QuestionHIV vaccine commonly asked questions

What is HIV?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that eventually (if left untreated) causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). It is a virus that progressively breaks down the immune system, making it very difficult to fight off infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), around 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with the disease. There are about 250,000 people that are living with undiagnosed disease.

How is it transmitted?

HIV spreads through the exchange of vaginal fluids and semen when having unprotected oral, vaginal, and anal sex with someone who is positive. Sharing needles with an infected person or getting contaminated blood transfusions can also spread it. In addition, babies born to women with HIV/AIDS can get the virus from their mothers during birth or from breastfeeding. It is not transmitted by simple casual contact such as kissing, sharing drinking glasses, or hugging.

What are the symptoms?

People usually develop symptoms 2-4 weeks after being infected, but at times it can take more than 10 years to show any signs. When they start to appear, symptoms resemble those of the flu illness: fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes-these may last for a few weeks. When people get pneumonia, experience long periods of diarrhea, have frequent fever or night sweats, or lose weight at a very fast pace, it may be a good indicator that the disease is in its advanced stage (AIDS). Sometimes symptoms may not show at all. People can be infected with the virus for years and not see or notice anything that's different with their bodies.

Who is advised to get the testing?

Individuals that engage in unprotected sex with new or multiple partners, those that don't use condoms, are about to enter a new relationship, victims of rape, or have a history of infection with other STDs are at risk of getting HIV.

How often one should be tested?

For monogamous heterosexual individual annual test should be sufficient. Injection-drug users and their sex partners, persons who exchange sex for money or drugs, sex partners of HIV-infected persons, men who have sex with men (MSM) or heterosexual persons who themselves, or whose sex partners, have had other partners since their most recent test.

If you belong to the above mentioned group baseline antibody testing should be obtained 2 weeks after exposure with repeat testing at 6, 12 and 24 weeks.

What types of testing exist?

Few testing methods exist (both blood tests):

  • Detecting the antibody in the blood to the HIV virus (gold standard) or
  • Detecting the part of the virus or its genetic material in the blood (early detection test).

Standard HIV antibody test- also known as gold standard test, IgG, or "regular" test

What is the standard HIV antibody test?

The antibody detection test, considered a standard HIV test. This test is also known to general public as a gold standard test, IgG, "regular" test, Western blot, EIA or antibody test.

It is done by taking a blood sample and sending it to the laboratory for analysis. This test looks for antibodies made by the immune system in response to HIV and it's99.5% accurate. In addition, laboratory will follow up on all positive tests with a confirmatory test called "Western Blot Confirmation" (also known as an EIA test). It's done with the same blood sample, so there will be no additional blood draw.

How soon after exposure can the antibody test be performed?

IgG antibodies appear 6 to 12 weeks following HIV infection in the most of patients and by six months in 99 percent of patients. If detected they generally persist for life. IgM antibodies are not tested since they are relatively insensitive.

If the "regular"antibody is positive does it mean that the personhas a disease?

No. if the standard test IgG test is positive the confirmatory Western blot test is done on the same blood sample to confirm the result and to exclude the false positive cases. Only if the confirmatory test is positive then person is considered positive.

Is it possible to get false negative test with standard antibody test?

Yes.The most common cause of a false negative antibody test in a high-risk patient is that the test is being conducted during the "window period"(the time from infection until a test can detect any changes) of acute HIV infection prior to seroconversion(developing antibody). In those instances repeat standard testing or HIV RNA testing can provide absolute assurance.

What about false positive results?

False positive tests are very rare since every positive test is confirmed by Western blot automatically


Early detection test- also known as viral, RNA,DNA, NASBA

What is the viral detection test?

It is an early detection test that looks for the presence of the virus through so called polymerase chain reaction techniques, branched chain DNA testing, or nucleic acid sequence-based amplification (NASBA).

When is early detection test used?

Viral detection testing may be useful in certain situations:

  • Those who may be in the "window period" for regular antibody test( the time from infection until a test can detect antibody)
  • In patients with inconclusive standard antibody test

The limitation of this test isa high cost.

How soon can early detection test be performed?

Early detection tests can detect the virus as early as one week after possible exposure.


Rapid HIV testing

What is rapid HIV test?

The rapid HIV test assesses the presence of HIV antibodies in either your blood or oral fluids. The test is completed and the results are given in the same visit.

What is the difference between a regular and rapid test?

Both types work by testing for antibodies. However, regular test can take days for results, whereas rapid tests take about 20 minutes and eliminate the stress of waiting.

How soon after exposure the rapid test should be done?

Most people who are infected would test positive after two to eight weeks, though some people can take up to six months to show positive results. Therefore, it is best to get tested three weeks, three months, and six months after exposure.

How accurate is the rapid test?

The accuracy of rapid testing is high (>99 percent sensitivity and specificity).

Which rapid tests are offered at your clinic?

The two types offered are Clearview Complete HIV 1/2 and OraQuick Advance HIV 1/2.

How is the Clearview Complete rapid test performed?

Clearview Complete is a painless fingerprick test. The results would be based on that small blood sample.

How is the rapid OraQuick Advance test performed?

OraQuick Advance is an oral test, given by swabbing the inside of the mouth. The results are based on that sample of oral fluid.

How much do the tests cost?

If you have insurance, rapid testing is most likely covered. If not, the test costs $60 in cash or $65 by credit card.

How reliable is the rapid test?

If the rapid test is negative the test considered complete, unless there is clinical suspicion of acute HIV infection. In this scenario, RNA testing should be performed.

All positive rapid test results must be confirmed with standard antibody and Western blot testing.

Questions? Call   212.696.5900