Types of Tests
Rapid (Point of Care): detects antibodies – three to four weeks after infection, rapid result
Early (NAAT/RNA): detects virus ten to 12 days after infection, one-week result
Standard: detects antibodies three to four weeks after infection, one- week result
The Rapid HIV test is useful for routine testing and/or if you don’t want to wait several days for the results. The Rapid HIV test detects HIV antibodies in the blood. Most guys (about 90%) will develop enough HIV antibodies to be detected three to four weeks after infection. The Rapid HIV test gives you a result in a few minutes, eliminating the stress of waiting a week for results. The Rapid test uses a blood specimen taken by poking your finger with a lance and then drawing some of this blood into a fine plastic tube. The Rapid test is just as accurate as a Standard HIV test. If you test negative, then you do not require any further tests. If you are positive, then you will need a further blood test using a specimen that needs to be sent to a laboratory.
The Early HIV test is useful if you’ve had a recent risk incident (anal sex without a condom with someone whose status was different or unknown) or a known exposure to HIV. The Early test reduces the window period (the time you have to wait before getting tested) to only ten to 12 days. The test is performed on a blood specimen taken from your arm, just like a Standard test. The Early HIV test looks for the actual HIV virus, not antibodies produced in response to the virus. That means the test can detect if you are infected when you are still in the window period of an antibody test.
The Standard HIV test can be used for routine testing or when the Rapid HIV test is not available. The Standard HIV test detects HIV antibodies in the blood. As with the Rapid test, most guys (about 90%) will develop enough HIV antibodies to be detected three to four weeks after infection. The big difference is that it is done with blood drawn from a vein. The blood is sent to a lab and you will have to wait up to five days for the result. If it is negative, then you don’t require any further tests. If the result is positive, you will need another test to confirm.
ABOUT THE “WINDOW PERIOD”
From the moment the HIV virus enters the body, it takes time for the immune system to develop enough HIV antibodies to be measurable by a Rapid or Standard HIV test. The period of time required for the body to produce enough HIV antibodies to become detectable by a Rapid or Standard HIV test is called the window period. HIV tests currently administered in British Columbia have a window period that can last anywhere between ten to 12 days (Early HIV test) and three months (Rapid and Standard tests).