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Different types of HIV tests

Antibody tests

The most common HIV test is an antibody test. Antibodies are part of your immune system that are produced when you come into contact with an infection. Antibody tests look for this immune response. These tests can be finger-prick tests or use blood samples sent to a laboratory. If this result is negative or non-reactive, then you are HIV negative.

Combined antibody/antigen tests

It is now common for antibody tests to also test for antigens. These are called 4th generation tests or combined antibody/antigen (Ag/Ab) tests. In these tests the antigen being tested is a major HIV protein called p24.

Viral load (RNA PCR) test

PCR stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction. This test looks directly for HIV in blood. It has the shortest potential window period and can be used from 3 days to 4 weeks after an exposure.

Average time after exposure to detect HIV antigens and antibodies

Different types of HIV tests

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