By Grant Huttar
The CDC reports that more than 1.2 million people in the US are living with Human Immunodeficiency Disease or HIV, and of those one in eight are unaware of having contracted it. Testing for HIV not only gives those effected more options for early treatment, but also can prevent the unintentional spread of the disease.
History of HIV Testing
1st Generation HIV Testing: As early as 1985, testing using lysed portions of the virus to determine if a blood sample contained antibodies for HIV. This would be indicative that the body’s immune system had encountered the virus. These tests had a long time period of 8-10 weeks from when unprotected sex occurred and the time the blood test would show exposure to the HIV virus. Unfortunately, due to contamination of the antigen it was not uncommon in this first generation of testing to give an unacceptably high false-positive results.
2nd Generation HIV Testing: By 1987 a second generation of testing became available that utilized electrophoresis to select separated proteins to be used in the immunoassay which would reduce the amount of contamination of the antigens. The second generation of testing reduced the window period down to 4-6 weeks, also it lowered the number of tests resulting in a false-positive. The test had an issue of leading to an indeterminant conclusion too often.
3rd Generation HIV Testing: In the early 1990’s, the third generation of HIV testing was developed. It was able to shorten the window period down to between two and three weeks by targeting a different immunoglobulin (Ig) molecule which was released more quickly after the conception of the disease than previous tests.
4th Generation HIV Testing: The fourth generation takes a different approach. It looks both indirectly for the immune response to the virus similar to the earlier tests, but in conjunction looks for the virus itself. This is called the antigen and antibody combination. This novel approach can give results in as little as two weeks. It tests of HIV 1 & 2 stains of the virus in addition to the HIV p24 antigen. The p24 protein of HIV is a viral core protein is now one of the best tests for HIV infection.
HIV RNA detection: A technique called reverse-transcription PCR can amplify small fragments of HIV RNA. HIV DNA does it job by making special HIV proteins. For DNA to make the protein it first makes a RNA which then has specific plans to create a unique protein. These RNA fragments of the HIV virus can be amplified and offer the earliest possible detection of the HIV virus.
HIV Symptoms: Overall, there is a range of initial symptoms of new HIV infection. It can present with essentially no symptoms to a mild febrile illness with chills. The early HIV infection can be similar to symptoms of Mono. Other symptoms can include a meningitis-like illness, rash, oral ulcers, diarrhea, and or lymph node swelling.
Benefits of being seen by doctor as soon as an exposure occurs.
There is new research which shows that anti-viral medication started within the first 72 hours after a potential HIV exposure may decrease the likelihood that someone will become chronically infected with the HIV virus. If you feel that you may have been exposed to HIV or another sexually transmitted disease or infection, please come in to see a physician right away. You can search for Urgent Care Near Me or Walk in clinic near me. The provider might be able to give you an anti-viral treatment. The doctor can also test you for Hepatitis B, C, syphilis, and antibodies to Herpes type 1 and 2. An urgent care such as Surfside Urgent Care of Laguna Beach can give you treatment and testing for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia which are the most common forms of sexual transmitted diseases. Give us a call 949.715.7278 and we can see you 7 days a week. You will be seen by a trained provider who can help evaluate your risk, take a history, and exam you.