Using technology similar to that of an ELISA, a rapid test produces results in approximately 20 minutes. Two types of rapid tests are available now. One uses blood; in this case, a clinician pricks your finger with a small needle and takes a few drops of your blood. The other uses oral fluids and is very similar to the oral fluid test described above.
There are two possible outcomes with this test: negative (meaning that the test does not detect any HIV antibodies) or "preliminary positive." In the case of preliminary positive, the rapid HIV test shows an HIV-positive result, but, as with the ELISA test, that result must be confirmed with a second test such as a Western blot. If the result is preliminary positive, the counselor will discuss what this means with the client, including the importance of practicing safer sex and taking other precautions until the confirmation test results come back, and will schedule a time for the client to receive confirmatory results and additional counseling.
HIV Antibody Confirmation Tests
The ELISA test is designed to be highly sensitive, that is, to miss as few HIV infections as possible. The downside of the high sensitivity is that the ELISA may produce a small number of false-positive tests. This usually is due to the presence of antibodies to other diseases that the ELISA mistakenly recognizes as antibodies to HIV. For this reason, it is important to supplement a positive ELISA with a confirmatory test, such as a Western blot, that is less sensitive but more specific, that is, one that has a lower rate of producing a false-positive result.
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