“Could I have been infected with HIV?” Many people who contact the AIDS service organization are asking themselves this very question – because they’ve had unprotected sex, for instance, because maybe the condom slipped or because of another situation that may have put them at risk for HIV.
An HIV test can clarify the situation. If someone is actually infected, then knowing about it brings with it enormous advantages in terms of health. A timely HIV therapy can then protect the immune system from the virus.
Whereas, if an infection is not detected until later, the virus has often already caused serious harm to the body. This can all be avoided with a timely test and therapy.
An HIV test can also be carried out anonymously. The test delivers a reliable result three months after the last risk situation.
Just which situations actually carry risk of HIV infection and which don’t can be found in the Transmission of HIV section.
HIV rapid tests for home use are often offered over the Internet. They are usually sent from abroad because sale to private persons in Germany is not permitted.
The German AIDS service organization sternly warns people from using rapid tests. Even small mistakes when using the test can cause false positive or false negative test results.
Plus: in a normal HIV test, a positive result is confirmed with a second test – before the affected person is notified. With rapid tests, on the other hand, you are directly confronted with a potentially false result and that without counseling. That can be very distressing.
The situation is different when rapid tests are offered in establishments for gay men or drugusers. There, the test is carried out by experts and counseling is offered. If the test result is positive, blood is drawn for a confirmation test. The result of that test takes a few days.
A PCR Test does not detect the presence of antibodies against HIV but rather the virus itself. In most cases, it is possible to detect HIV as early as 15 days after the infection. This test is used if suspicion of an acute HIV infection exists. The same process is also applied in HIV therapies to determine viral load.
PCR tests are not suitable as faster alternatives to normal HIV antibody tests. This test is namely not able to securely exclude that an HIV infection is present after only 15 days since the viral proliferation in the body varies from person to person. Furthermore, the PCR test catches the HIV 1 strain of the virus, for example, not the HIV 2 strain of the virus, which is rare in Germany. To be on the safe side, an HIV antibody test is then necessary after three months.
The PCR test costs between approximately 100 and 180 euros. The patient is responsible for covering the costs for the test unless it is performed as part of an HIV treatment or suspicion of an acute infection is present.