How Accurate are HIV Tests

Many individuals question how accurate HIV tests are, especially if they use the home self-tests. However, doctor administered tests can at times also be inconclusive and therefore retests must be performed. With the ELISA test, the Western Blot test is used to confirm if there is a positive result, due to how often the ELISA may be incorrect. The incorrect results do not always occur, but they are frequent enough that if results are positive, they need to be confirmed. In addition, some doctors will recommend that individuals be tested again several months later to be sure.

Determining the Accuracy Rate

The accuracy of the HIV tests depends on what test that an individual decides to take. For instance, the ELISA and Western Blot test are the most commonly used due to how inexpensive they are, as compared to the more expensive viral tests. Although less accurate in some instances, the viral tests are more quickly accomplished and can be performed sooner than the ELISA can be performed after exposure. Furthermore, individuals can have themselves retested on the same day rather than having to wait up to a week for new results. Although this may not increase accuracy in the test itself, it will help to increase the accuracy of the results an individual may be given from his or her HIV tests.

Time and Type of Test May Have Bearing On Results

Accuracy also depends on what test is administered in that if it is a self test, the individual will be the one to make sure that he or she follows the instructions. If any of the instructions are incorrectly followed, the result may be inconclusive or give the individual a false positive. This can cause a fair amount of grief if the test is not correctly done and, due to this, some individuals may prefer going to a doctor to improve the accuracy on HIV tests. For some individuals, they take the self-test, only to find out after they go to a doctor’s office to have another confirmation test taken, that they are in fact not positive when they believed they were.

Allowing Enough Time for a Positive Result to Appear

Another factor that determines how accurate HIV tests are is if the individual waited a long enough time for the test to be accurately read. In order for the virus to be present in the body, the virus will need somewhere between four weeks and six months in order to be positively identified. If enough time is not allowed, the accuracy of the test will begin to drop and it may become necessary for the individual to be tested again later on. This should also be considered when administering any kind of self-test where the individual might discover that a partner that he or she had was infected and decided to test his or her self.

Doctors will explain to you how accurate tests are when you take them at their office. If an individual is going to a free clinic, he or she will want to ask a nurse practitioner or similar medical professional what test they are taking and how accurate it is. In addition, all individuals should be sure to again ask about the complete accuracy of the test if their test is returned positive. Doing this will not only confirm accuracy but also help an individual to know if his or her results are actually positive. As some free clinics do not always offer additional tests due to the cost, you may have to request it or go to another medical provider to have it administered.

False Positives and the Most Common Tests

It should be noted that four out of five times when an ELISA gives a positive, the Western Blot test reveals it to be a false positive. This can be a terrible burden for any individual to bear, especially if he or she does not have anyone with them to act as a support provider during this time. In the end, the accuracy of HIV tests will fall upon not only any decision an individual makes when he or she decides to be tested, but how accurate the test is and whether it has been verified as being a legitimate test. If any individual is unsure of whether a test is a legitimate, it is best either to look into the research surrounding the test or to ask a doctor’s opinion. Discovering that an individual is positive is difficult enough, but to find out that a test has given a false positive can be terrible.

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