Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus responsible for the disease acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Laboratory tests are essential for its diagnosis, so what about testing positive for HIV antibodies? Does it mean HIV infection all the time or not?
Diagnosis of HIV
Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) is the test used for the diagnosis of HIV infection.
Physicians use a blood sample in order to detect the antibodies against HIV which are produced by the immune system.
The immune system is able to produce these antibodies only after 3-6 weeks of infection. In some cases, it may take 6 months.
This ELISA test is not always accurate, thus, it is not conclusive… Why?
Can anything affect HIV results?
Yes, even the test may show false-positive or false-negative results. Because it is a very sensitive test, it can detect other antibodies with a resultant positive result, that’s to say false-positive HIV test.
Nevertheless, ELISA is a good screening test for AIDS and the positive tests need confirmation by the “differentiation assay” test.
The value of testing positive for HIV antibodies
Testing positive for HIV antibodies should indicate active infection with HIV but some patients show positive results though they don’t have the infection i.e.: false-positive HIV.
We should stress the fact that testing for HIV antibodies means having the infection but not the full-blown picture of AIDS.
AIDS develops many years after the infection i.e.: 8-10 years.
False negative HIV test
If the patient did the test during the window period i.e.: 3 weeks or fewer after having the infection. During this period there will be no antibodies in the patient’s blood.
If there is a high suspicion index, the physician should ask for repeating the test 3 months later.
Rapid HIV testing
There are some less time-consuming tests for the diagnosis of HIV infection with very accurate results, such as:
OraQuick test: It uses saliva as a sample. It takes only 20 minutes to give the result.
INSTI: It takes less than one minute.
Again, positive test results need confirmation of the diagnosis by repeating it or do another confirmatory test.
Other tests and investigations
- Antigen/antibody tests. To help diagnose the infection.
- Nucleic acid test. To detect the virus load.
- Investigations for complications, for instance, CBC, a biopsy of a swelling.
Treatment of HIV-AIDS
Unfortunately, a patient with HIV infection can’t be cured by their own immunity because unlike other viral infections the immunity can’t eradicate it.
In addition, the treatment of HIV will reduce its burden in the body to the lowest limit but not curing the patient completely.
The treatment of the infection necessitates using antiretrovirus medications. They have different classes with different mechanisms so that the physician may recommend using a combination of them to get a better response.
Dietary supplements such as vitamins, minerals, whey protein, acetyl-L-carnitine.
The patient should do everything to guard against having any infection, for example:
- Avoid eating raw eggs or meat.
- Wearing face masks.