How Accurate Are Rapid HIV Tests?
The short answer? Very!
Don’t let the word “rapid” fool you — rapid HIV tests are just as accurate as standard HIV tests. Because the only way to know whether or not you’re HIV-positive is to get tested, rapid HIV tests are an inexpensive, painless, and quick way to inform people of their HIV status.
Despite it being called an “HIV test,” rapid tests don’t actually test for HIV. Instead, they look for the presence of HIV antibodies in a person’s blood. Most people (90 percent) will develop HIV antibodies three to four weeks after being infected with HIV. A quick prick of the finger will give doctors enough blood to test.
With rapid HIV testing, patients no longer have to endure the stress of waiting weeks for their HIV results. Now, a patient can learn their HIV status within minutes. Rapid HIV testing can also be done at home if you’re uncomfortable going into a doctor’s office.
Everyone! If you’re sexually active, the CDC recommends you get tested regularly for HIV. If you’re dating someone who is HIV-positive, or if you regularly have unprotected sex, you should get tested every few months.
Because there’s a large window period (time between when a person is exposed to HIV and when a test can identify HIV antibodies), a negative test doesn’t always mean you don’t have HIV. To best protect yourself, you should take another test a few weeks later.
If that test is also negative, you can confidently say you’re HIV-negative. To keep yourself safe and healthy, you should talk to a counselor or doctor about ways to best prevent becoming HIV-positive. If you’re at a high risk of contracting HIV, you should talk to your doctor about PrEP.
If the test comes back positive, you’ll likely be asked to take a follow-up test. At CIRCLE CARE Center, we’ll sit down with anyone who tests positive for HIV and discuss their treatment options and ways to prevent transmitting it to others.