An HIV infection can only be diagnosed through an HIV test, which involves testing the blood for antibodies of the HI virus. An HIV infection is not visible to the bare eye, and it cannot be diagnosed based on symptoms. It is recommended to get yourself tested always if you have had sex in some form without a condom with an occasional partner or if you have shared needles for injecting drugs. Since an HIV test is reliable only three months after possible transmission, the person exposed to HIV must protect their sex partners by using a condom and lubricant when necessary before receiving the test results.
The HIV antibody test measures whether the body has produced antibodies of the HI virus. The production of antibodies depends on one’s genes and the type of HI virus. The current tests show the antibodies of all people in measurements as of three months from the possible risk situation, at the latest. It is therefore recommended that an HIV test is taken 1-3 months from the possible risk situation.
HIV antibody tests are normally performed either on the vein blood from the bend of the arm or a blood drop from the fingertip. The most commonly used test in Finland is HIV AgAb. The test recognizes both the antigen and antibodies from serum. The result of vein blood tests are developed within a week. The test on the blood from the fingertip can be conducted as a rapid test, which delivers the results in 1 minute.
There are also home tests that can be bought online. However, there is not enough information on the reliability of home tests. HIV rapid tests are not recommended for home use. The quality of the tests varies, and there is not enough experience of their home use.
A negative result means that no antibodies of the HI virus were found in the blood. In other words, negative result means that the tested person does not have HIV. In case the rapid test from the fingertip blood is positive, a vein blood test is taken in order to confirm the result. The results of the confirmation are delivered in about a week. An HIV infection diagnosis can be made only after the confirmation test.
The amounts of HI virus in a human’s bodily fluids are particularly high right after transmission, at which point the infection does not yet show in tests. It thus possible to transmit the disease without one’s knowledge at this stage. Before receiving the final results from the tests, it is important to use a condom, as well as lubricant if necessary, in all sexual contact.
Please note that if you have had unprotected sex, it is also important to test other sexually transmitted infections. It is recommended to wait a week after the risk situation, or three months in the case of hepatitis or HIV. Services within public health care are for the most part free of charge, and in some cases, treatments and medication as well.
An untreated STI always significantly increases the risk of HIV transmission. Read more about other STIs.