Our expert says:
Dear which test
PCR (polymerase chain reaction), often detects HIV infection months before the antibody test; in one case reported at the AIDS conference in Stockholm, it detected HIV three and a half years before seroconversion. Some persons who are negative on the antibody test, P24 antigen, viral culture, and all other tests have been found to be positive on the PCR
Viral load tests are reported as the number of HIV copies in a milliliter of blood. If the viral load measurement is high, it indicates that HIV is reproducing and that the disease will likely progress faster than if the viral load is low.
A viral load result that reads “undetectable” does not mean that you are cured. It may mean that the level of HIV virus in your blood is below the threshold needed for detection by this test.
Antibodies to the HIV virus can be detected by a screening test called an ELISA. The ELISA test is repeated if positive. The ELISA method is very sensitive but requires another test, a Western Blot, to confirm the results because false positives can occur. Antibody testing will not detect HIV immediately after exposure, during the window before the development of antibodies. If you are tested too soon, your result may be negative despite the fact that you are infected (false negative). Because of this, repeat testing is important. You should have another HIV antibody test in 3–6 months from the time of a possible exposure to the virus.
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