The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended HIV combination tests that can detect the virus as well as specific antibodies in the blood up to three to four weeks faster, reports Reuters.
Traditional HIV tests detect only the antibodies against HIV that are circulating in the blood, saliva, or urine, without actually identifying the presence of the virus. This new type of combination HIV testing that the CDC recommends utilizes diagnostics that detect the antigens too and show that the body is reacting to the presence of the virus at the early stage of infection. Early detection of HIV is crucial to make treatment more effective and to prevent transmission.
The most common HIV tests that detect HIV-specific antibodies in the blood are the ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay). Antibodies, which are produced by the body in reaction to the presence of the virus, can take up to three to four weeks before they are detected. HIV antigen is a protein produced by the virus immediately after infection. Acute HIV infection is the earliest stage of HIV and can occur within 2 to 4 weeks after a person is infected with HIV. By detecting both antigen and antibodies, the new HIV Combo tests enable faster diagnosis to help prevent the spread of new infections.
Risk factors for HIV infection include unprotected sex, having sex with many partners, and sharing needles or other drug equipment with others. According to the CDC, about 1 in 6 people living with HIV in the United States are unaware that they have the virus, which increases the risk that they may unknowingly spread the virus and also delay treatment for themselves.
- HIV testing for every person 13 to 64 years old as part of routine medical care
- People at high risk of HIV infection get tested at least once a year
- All pregnant women get tested for HIV
The HIV Combo tests currently available in the U.S. are supplied by Abbott Laboratories and Alere Inc. The CDC has said that it is encouraging medical testing laboratories to adopt the combo HIV test as quickly as possible. Thanks to such improved testing, HIV medicines, and better treatments, people who test positive for HIV live longer, healthier lives and reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others.