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Step 2: Identifying Cases through HIV Testing and Diagnosis

The CDC estimates that around 1 in 8 people infected with HIV do not know that they are infected. Conducting screening to identify and diagnose HIV-positive individuals serves two major purposes within the HIV care continuum:

  • Identifying infected individuals. This enables those individuals to be connected with appropriate healthcare services that help them to suppress the virus, prolonging and improving the quality of their lives.
  • Increasing individuals' awareness of their HIV status, which helps prevent new HIV infections. HIV-positive individuals adhering to a treatment regimen have low levels of virus in their bodies and are thus much less likely to pass the virus to another individual. In addition, knowledge of one's HIV status may lead to decreased risk-taking behavior and subsequently a decreased risk of infecting others.

There are many different settings in which a person can receive an HIV test. These include:

  • A health clinic
  • A doctor's office
  • Mobile testing vans
  • Community testing events
  • At home, using a home HIV test

HIV screening, or testing of a large number of people, is usually done with a rapid HIV test, which provides results in 30 minutes or less. If the result of the rapid test is positive, an individual should have follow-up laboratory tests to confirm the diagnosis.

Co-infection with viral hepatitis, including hepatitis B and hepatitis C, is a serious concern, and a 2017 CDC fact sheet reports that people who are infected with HIV are also more likely to be infected with hepatitis C. In many cases, this is because they have been exposed to both viruses through injection drug use. Viral hepatitis can be detected through blood tests. It is important to know if a patient has a viral hepatitis co-infection because it can make treatment for their HIV infection more complicated and increase their risk of liver damage. In the same CDC fact sheet, CDC recommends that all people with HIV infections also be tested for both hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

Resources to Learn More

HIV Testing
Website
Provides the CDC's proposed guidelines on HIV screening and testing in both clinic and nonclinical settings. It also includes resources on current recommendations for HIV lab testing and testing of blood, organs, and other tissues from donors.
Organization(s): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

HIV Testing Overview
Website
Explains the different types of HIV tests and how they work. It also describes in depth the two available types of home HIV tests.
Organization(s): HIV.gov