Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a sexually transmitted infection, which occurs by contact or transfer of blood, semen, pre-ejaculate, and vaginal fluids. HIV can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her infant during pregnancy, childbirth, or through breastmilk.
HIV infects immune system cells, and in the absence of effective treatment, eventually leads to a loss of cell-mediated immunity, and the development of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Around 1.2 million individuals in the US are living with HIV. However, about 14% of them (1 in 7) are unaware they have been infected.
There are two types of HIV. HIV-1 is the virus that was initially discovered. It is more virulent and infective than HIV-2, and is associated with most of the HIV infections around the world. HIV-2 is not transmitted as easily and is predominantly confined to infections in West Africa.
HIV is not curable. However, antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a very effective treatment to prevent the transmission of HIV and the progression to AIDS.
HIV infection has multiple stages and has specific symptoms associated with each stage.
During the acute stage, which is within 2 to 4 weeks after infection, some individuals do not show any symptoms or only mild symptoms. Others experience flu-like symptoms including rashes, chills, fever, night sweats, muscle ache, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and a sore throat. Individuals in the acute stage are highly contagious.
During the second stage of HIV infection (clinical latency) most individuals are asymptomatic. The virus is still active, but reproduces at a slower rate. Individuals at this stage are still contagious. Without treatment, the disease may proceed to stage 3.
Stage 3 is the most serious phase of an HIV infection when individuals develop AIDS. These individuals have suppressed immune systems and symptoms include rapid weight loss, extreme fatigue, pneumonia, skin discoloration, memory loss, depression, and increased susceptibility to other infections such as tuberculosis, severe bacterial infections, and certain cancers.
Who should get tested?
You should consider getting tested if:
- You are sexually active
- You have had unprotected sex
- You are entering a new relationship
- You are experiencing symptoms of an STD
- You have had a partner with an STD infection
If you suspect an exposure, you may need to wait approximately 3 weeks following your exposure to take this test, as HIV antigens and antibodies are not detectable during the initial period post-exposure.
HOW IT WORKS
Order your test.
Choose the test that matches your need from our large array of tests. The kit will be delivered to your door step. There is no need to leave the comfort of your home.
Collect your sample.
Register and activate your test. Collect your sample. Return your sample to our lab as soon as possible, using the prepaid envelope included in the kit.
Your sample will be tested as soon as it arrives in our lab. Your results will be available through our secure online platform in 2 to 3 business days.
Details and FAQs
Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions. Please feel free to contact us if you have any other questions.
Our lab uses a fully automated antigen/antibody combination test to detect the presence of the HIV p24 antigen and antibodies to HIV-1 and HIV-2 in the finger prick blood sample. The p24 antigen is usually detected within 2-3 weeks post-exposure, while HIV antibodies are generally detected 4-6 weeks post-exposure.
There is no cure for HIV. However, antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a very effective treatment to minimize viral load preventing the progression of HIV disease and preventing the transmission of HIV to sexual partners and newborn infants. ART is a life-long daily treatment that must be strictly followed to ensure the viral load remains below detectable levels. If the treatment is discontinued, HIV will continue to replicate increasing the risk of HIV transmission and the disease can progress to AIDS.
Methods are also available to reduce the risk of contracting HIV. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a daily medication that individuals at high risk of HIV (e.g. partner of an HIV-positive person) can take to minimize their risk of HIV infection. There are currently two FDA approved PrEP medications that reduce the risk of contracting HIV via sex by up to 90%.
Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is an emergency medication that must be started within 72 hours of exposure. PEP is a short course of medication that reduces the risk of infection but should not be used to replace other HIV and STD prevention methods.
- Avoiding vaginal, rectal or oral sex is the only sure-fire way to prevent STDs
- Proper use of male condoms reduces the risk of HIV transmission
- Long-term monogamous relationships with a tested partner reduce the risk
- Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a daily medication that individuals at high risk of HIV (e.g. partner of an HIV-positive person) can take to minimize their risk of HIV infection
- Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is an emergency medication that must be started within 72 hours of exposure, which reduces the risk of infection but should not be used to replace other HIV and STD prevention methods