Are HIV Tests Reliable?

When individuals find out their HIV tests are positive, the first thing they do is rush into panic mode and question are their HIV tests reliable. Human nature will try to help an individual cope in any way possible, which includes denial or trying to find a flaw in the system. For some individuals, their lives have been completely altered once they know their HIV tests are positive and this will mean they will never be able to live their lives in the same way again. However, it is important to note that in fact some HIV tests are not 100% reliable.

Available Testing Methods

There are two main tests that are used for confirming HIV, which are the:

  • ELISA
  • Western Blot

It is important to note that the ELISA is used to test not for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), but rather the effect that HIV has on the immune system. No test has yet to be created that scans specifically for the existence of the virus, but rather what the virus does to the body. Despite the advances made in the study of HIV, no test is within sight that directly tests for it and therefore the ELISA needs to be confirmed as HIV is not the only thing that could account for the effect on the immune system.

The Western Blot is therefore used to verify the ELISA test. It is very important to note that the Western Blot finds that 4 out of 5 times the ELISA test was in fact wrong. This can be an immense relief to some but it can also leave them questioning why their ELISA came back positive. It is important to remember the ELISA tests factors but again it does not test for the actual presence of the virus, only the signs that it might be present. There are other factors that should always be taken into consideration and it is important to have all tests verified.

Accuracy of The Tests

However, while the Western Blot test may show that the ELISA was in fact wrong 4 out of 5 times, it is important to note that approximately 13% of the time it does prove that the ELISA was correct and that you do have the signs that state you have HIV. Some organizations feel a new test needs to be created because of the emotional storm a person goes through when the ELISA states they are positive when the Western Blot comes back negative. Not only can it make a person need serious counseling time, but it can leave him or her feeling angry and lashing out at everyone around him or her.

HIV tests are reliable to a certain point, but they are not 100%. However, while you are waiting to have your results confirmed, remember to take a step back. Many individuals become very emotional and are likely to lash out from anxiety and frustration. Allow those around you to support you and remember the limits of the tests.

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