Advancements in HIV testing have contributed to an increase in early diagnosis of the infection. A key benefit of this early detection is that the disease can be managed, enabling people with HIV to live longer and otherwise healthy lives.1 Early treatment also helps prevent the individual from developing AIDS and additional infections, such as tuberculosis,2 and reduces the person’s risk of transmitting HIV to others.3
Despite advancements in testing technology, HIV often goes undetected. In fact, of the 35 million people living with HIV globally, 19 million don’t know it.4 This doesn’t have to be the case. Early detection provides vital information that can lead to treatment and prevention of additional infections.5,6
Getting results sooner rather than later can make a difference in living a healthy lifestyle, which is why Abbott is dedicated to developing the diagnostic tools to inform critical treatment decisions. These tools may help identify infected individuals earlier and help doctors plan a treatment regimen for people who otherwise might unknowingly spread the disease due to lack of awareness of infection.
HIV's rapidly evolving nature makes detection a constant challenge for the lab. We are working to meet this challenge through a commitment to science that stays a step ahead.
Soon after a person is infected with HIV, a protein called antigen, is produced. It can take as many as 3 to 4 weeks for the body to make detectable antibodies (the body's reaction to the virus).7 During this time, older antibody-only tests may indicate that someone is HIV negative when one is HIV positive. HIV Combo tests can detect HIV earlier than older antibody-only tests because these tests can detect both HIV antigen and antibodies.8
For the 19 million people in the world who do not know they are infected with HIV, they are not getting treated, and can unknowingly pass the virus to others.6 Voluntary HIV testing and counseling allow people who have HIV to know their status, get life-saving treatment and care, and prevent HIV transmission to others.
Getting the Facts1,8,9
- Acute HIV, a highly infectious stage of the disease, can last greater than 10 weeks.
- Older HIV antibody-only tests may not detect acute HIV infections and so tests may give a negative result when the patient is HIV positive.
- Many advances, including early diagnosis and treatment, have made HIV a manageable disease.
Getting tested is the only way to know your HIV status. Talk to your health care provider to learn more.
Check out these resources for additional information about HIV testing and treatment:
1. HIV/AIDS Background. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. June 2014. Website: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/testing/background.html
2. Diseases and Conditions: HIV/AIDS. Mayo Clinic. May 2014. Website: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hiv-aids/basics/complications/con-20013732
3. Prevention Benefits of HIV treatment. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April 2013. Website: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/prevention/research/tap/
4. The gap report. United Nations AIDS (UNAIDS). July 2014. Website: http://www.unaids.org/sites/default/files/media_asset/UNAIDS_Gap_report_en.pdf.
5. Cohen MS, Shaw GM, McMichael AJ, et. al. Acute HIV-1 infection. New England Journal of Medicine. 2011; 364(20): 1943–1954. Website: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3771113/pdf/nihms503634.pdf.
6. Marks G, Crepaz N, Janssen RS. Estimating sexual transmission of HIV from persons aware and unaware that they are infected with the virus in the USA. AIDS. 2006; 20:1447–50.
7. Constantine N. HIV antibody assays. May 2006; page 2. HIV InSite Knowledge Base (online textbook) http://hivinsite.ucsf.edu/InSite?page=kb-00&doc=kb-02-02-01.
8. Wians FH, Moore HA, Briscoe D, et. al. Evaluation of four qualitative third-generation HIV antibody assays and the fourth-generation Abbott HIV Ag/Ab combo test. Lab Medicine. 2011; 42(9):523-35.
9. O’Brien M and Markowitz M. Should we treat acute HIV infection? Current HIV/AIDS Rep. 2012; 9(2): 101–110.