What is the HIV RNA Early Detection Test?
Interested in potentially using an HIV RNA test? Here are the basics you need to know about this test.
What Does It Test for?
There can be a lot of confusion about what exactly HIV is, so it is important to understand that the HIV RNA test only tells you whether or not you have HIV. This is the human immunodeficiency virus, a sort of virus that can attack the immune system and keep it from fighting away other dangerous microorganisms.
The HIV test does not test for AIDS which is also called Stage 3 HIV. Simply taking the RNA HIV test alone is not enough to tell you whether you have AIDS. AIDS is a dangerous condition that may be caused by HIV, but people who get HIV treatment as soon as possible can avoid ultimately getting AIDS.
How Does It Work?
As the name implies, this is a test that looks for HIV RNA. RNA is molecule that helps the virus to transmit its genetic information and take over your healthy cells. Anytime there is HIV present in your bloodstream, its RNA will be there. A special type of polymerase chain reaction is used in this test to look for even the tiniest particles of RNA produced by HIV.
This special testing method lets doctors easily tell if you have HIV even before it multiplies to larger numbers inside your body. It can even identify HIV from tiny, damaged RNA fragments that are not complete.
What Does Early Detection Mean?
One of the key characteristics for this sort of test is that it allows for early detection. Any sort of STD test will not be reliable right after a sexual encounter because it can take some time for the infection to travel through the body and grow to a detectable amount.
When it comes to HIV, the testing window can normally require people to wait weeks after a potential infection before they know if they have HIV. An early detection test will work somewhere between 9 to 11 days following any potential exposure. This makes the RNA HIV test a first test to let you know if you have HIV.
How Accurate is the HIV RNA Test?
In general the test for HIV RNA is considered to be one of the most accurate options for those who may have HIV. However, it is understandable to be particularly concerned about accuracy when you face the possibility of having such a serious infection. These are all the details about HIV RNA accuracy rankings.
Overall Accuracy Rates
Overall, the HIV RNA test has an accuracy rating of 99.89 percent for both HIV 1 and HIV 2. Keep in mind that accuracy rankings will be higher if you wait a little while longer. Accuracy ratings are a few hundredths of a percent lower if you take the test at 9 days following exposure instead of 14 days following exposure.
Your Chances of a False Positive
A false positive is a type of testing error that occurs when the test tells you that you have HIV but you actually do not. For the early detection test for HIV RNA, false positives are measured according to a standard called specificity.
FDA measurements of specificity about the HIV test currently stand at 99.83 percent. This means that there is a very small chance, of about 00.17 percent, that you may take the test and get a false positive. Though it can cause some temporary anxiety to think that you have HIV, a false positive is not actually dangerous. All you have to do is get tested again to see if the first results were right.
Your Chances of a False Negative
A false negative is definitely a concerning concept because it would mean that you have HIV but the test told you that you had nothing to worry about. To measure a person’s chances of getting a false negative, the FDA requires testing organizations to measure the sensitivity of the test. This refers to the test’s ability to give a positive result when a person has HIV.
The sensitivity ratings about the HIV RNA test offered at STDcheck.com has an official sensitivity rating of 100 percent. In layman’s terms, this essentially means that if you have HIV, the test will definitely let you know. You should not have to worry that the test accidentally missed any HIV RNA in your body.
Who Should Get Tested for HIV?
HIV is a very dangerous condition, but it is not passed through casual contact or kissing. It is primarily transmitted through blood, semen, pre-cum, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. People who need to get an HIV test fall into a few primary categories:
- Sexually active people: If you are sexually active in any way, take charge of your sexual health and make sure you get tested at least once for HIV in your lifetime. Consider getting tested every time you switch to a new partner.
- People who have recently had risky sex: If you have recently had sex in a potentially risky situation, such as unprotected sex with someone who has not been recently tested, then you need to get an STD checkup right away. Even if the person does not display symptoms or says they are clean, it is still useful to get tested anyways. HIV can be asymptomatic for years, so many people unknowingly have it. It can be passed through vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
- Those with partners that have HIV: Thanks to modern medication, it is perfectly possible for people to live with a partner that has HIV and remain HIV negative themselves. However, healthcare experts recommend that you get a test every three to six months.
- Those who share needles: Anyone who shares injection equipment should get tested at least once a year. HIV can be transmitted through blood, so it can be passed by a needle.
- Anyone stuck by a non-sterilized needle: HIV can survive on a used needle for as long as 42 days, so in rare cases it can be spread through accidental needle punctures. The most common issue is healthcare workers accidentally pricked with an HIV contaminated needle, but it may also happen during tattoos or an accidental poke by a needle in the trash.
- Children of mothers who had HIV during pregnancy or breastfeeding: HIV can be passed from a mother to a child during birth, pregnancy, or breastfeeding. Children in this situation need to get tested a few times throughout childhood.
HIV RNA Test Window Period
The window period of an STD test refers to the amount of time you have to wait before the test will start to work. Most tests do not provide the results the instant you are infected because of the way virus and bacteria grow. It may take several days for the infection to spread throughout your body and multiply to an amount where any basic test will notice the infection.
HIV tests often work by checking for the antibodies and proteins your body makes to try and fight off the infection, so this can further lengthen the typical window period. However, the HIV RNA test checks for RNA instead of antibodies. This leads to a far shorter window period. The test’s window period for HIV is 9 to 14 days.
At nine days following infection, the test will most likely work, though there is a small chance that it will not be able to detect the HIV. By 14 days, the test has reached its full level of effectiveness and can clearly identify HIV if you have it. Therefore, if you are not in a huge hurry and have the opportunity to wait a little longer than 9 days, you can be more confident in your results.
It is fairly common for people to get confused by the phrase “window period” and think you have to take the test within this time or it will not work at all. However, that is not actually true when you consider the HIV test. Once you reach the window period, you can take the RNA HIV test during any time you desire. It will continue to work for identifying HIV even months or years after the infection.
Why Should You Choose the HIV RNA Test ASAP?
Many people delay taking an HIV test because they are worried about what they are going to find out. Though it is tempting to try to put off bad news, it is best to deal with this as quickly as you can. When you choose to take the HIV RNA test as soon as possible, you get many excellent benefits.
- Peace of mind: Instead of spending several weeks worrying, an early test lets you find out your status quickly. You can quit being anxious and instead focus on your next steps for addressing the issue.
- Protection for your partners: Knowing whether or not you have HIV will help to ensure the safety of your sexual partners. You can use preventative measures to stop it from spreading and let them know they should get tested too.
- Fast treatment: Since HIV symptoms get worse as the virus grows to higher levels, treatment at an earlier stage makes a huge difference to your overall quality of life. Instead of trying cures for other illnesses you do not have, doctors will know your diagnosis and know how to treat you if you start to get sick.
- A longer lifespan: Those who are diagnosed with HIV at an earlier stage have a much longer lifespan. Early treatment keeps HIV levels permanently low, so they cannot do as much damage.
- Safe childbirth: For women who have HIV, there is a risk of them passing the disease on to their children during pregnancy and the earlier years of childhood. However, this risk is only high if the mother is not taking treatments. Women who know about their HIV and take steps to treat it can help to keep their children from contracting HIV too.
Because of the many benefits of fast testing for HIV, pick a test that will give you results as soon as possible. Since the HIV RNA test has one of the shortest testing windows overall, it is one of the best choices for those who may have HIV. Instead of having to wait three months, you can get your results just a couple weeks after the potential infection.
HIV RNA Test Cost
With all the many advantages that come with the HIV test, you could be wanting to know if there are any downsides. It is true that for a long time the test was considered fairly pricey which discouraged many people from selecting this fast and convenient test. However, price is no longer a reason to be wary of picking the HIV RNA test.
Thanks to all sorts of new technologies, sequencing RNA is now much faster and easier to do. This has made HIV tests that rely on RNA detection far more affordable. Keep in mind that the precise cost will vary a little depending on what sorts of tests you pick.
STDcheck.com offers a variety of bundles, and each individual test is normally cheaper when you purchase it as part of a bundle. Even people who just pick the standalone HIV RNA test do not have to pay excessive amounts. The cost of the test typically remains under $180 regardless of which bundle you pick. You can pay with either credit or debit, so you have multiple financing options.
Keep in mind that you might need to pay the full costs yourself. STDcheck.com does not take insurance because involving insurance companies can impair your privacy and make it easier for your parents, partners, or other people on your insurance plan to learn about your test. However, many insurance companies will still reimburse you as long as you fill out the proper forms and share the itemized receipt from STDcheck with the company.
If you cannot pay right away, do not worry. STDcheck.com gives you a pay later option. This allows you to submit your samples and wait for the lab to check them while you find the funds you need. You just need to make sure you have your payment ready by the time you want to see your results.
HIV RNA Testing Procedure
Getting tested for HIV is not a complicated or painful process. It just requires you to complete a few forms and give a sample, so you can get your results without having to spend a lot of time at the doctor’s office.
STDcheck’s Convenient Test Ordering Process
When you choose STDcheck.com for your HIV RNA testing, you start by creating an account and ordering your test online. You then get a unique ID number that will be used to identify your account and information. During the signup, you can pick how you are contacted and see where you can get the test.
How to Give Your Sample to a Lab
Once you have your test ordered, pick one of the many convenient labs STDcheck.com partners with around the nation. You can eat and drink before the test because no preparation is needed. You can make an appointment if desired, but you can also go in without one since there is not a huge wait time.
Once you go to the clinic, you give them your private ID code to identify yourself. No one has to know your name or know what you are getting tested for. All they will do at the clinic is collect a single small blood sample. This will be a quick process that involves inserting a tiny needle into your vein to pull out a little blood. This is then sent to a lab where they are told to test it for HIV.
Waiting for the Results
Your results are not mailed or emailed to you, and STDcheck will not contact you unless requested. If you allow contact, they will just let you know when the results are done, and then you are able to sign in on your account to see them. Those who do not want to be contacted can just call them at a convenient time to get results.
Results for your HIV test may be done as early as one to two business days following giving your sample. However, two to three business days is the more likely wait time. In some states, tests need additional processing, so these regulations can add a little extra time.
If the test is positive, that means HIV RNA material was found in your bloodstream and you have contracted HIV. A negative result means your blood is clear of HIV RNA, so you do not have the infection.
Dealing With Results
If you find out you are free of HIV, your process is over. You can just relax and be happy to learn that you do not have HIV. For those who end up with a positive result, STDcheck can help. In addition to your results, STDcheck.com can link you to live chat representatives who help to explain the results and provide the next steps. STDcheck services can put you in touch with doctors who can help to organize a treatment plan.
STDcheck.com can also help you with the tricky task of notifying other partners. If you are not sure when you picked up the HIV infection, it is a good idea to let other sexual partners know about it so they can get tested and treated. STDcheck has an anonymous notification service that can provide this important information without telling anyone that you have HIV.
Basics About HIV/AIDS
Since it was first discovered in the 1980s, HIV/AIDS has been the subject of a lot of rumors and misunderstandings. Being informed about all the basic details help to make this virus seem a lot less intimidating.
The Difference Between HIV/AIDS
HIV is a virus that attacks the CD4 white blood cells. Without these immune system cells, the body cannot completely fight off other viruses and infections. Not all people with HIV develop AIDS, but it is possible for some to end up with this condition. Without treatment, people with HIV will develop AIDS somewhere between 2 to 15 years later.
AIDS is a health syndrome instead of a virus. It is characterized by a wide range of symptoms and a CD4 cell count of less than 200 cells/mm3. A few of the many problems associated with AIDS include extreme fatigue, weight loss, fevers, opportunistic infections, and certain types of skin cancers. AIDS can lead to death if left untreated.
How It Spreads
HIV spreads through certain types of bodily fluids. It is often sexually transmitted, but it can also be spread through needle sharing and blood transfusions. HIV cannot be spread through the air, casual skin to skin contact, saliva, or sweat.
What to Expect if You Have HIV
HIV is no longer deadly like it used to be a few decades ago. Once you are diagnosed, you will start taking antiretroviral therapy. This medication helps to keep HIV counts down and maintain levels of white blood cells. In addition to maintaining health, the right medications also drastically reduce your chances of passing it on.
You may not notice many symptoms of HIV at all. In the early weeks, people might experience typical flu-like symptoms, such as chills, aches, fevers, and a sore throat. However, it is fairly common for HIV to be entire asymptomatic. With the right treatment, your chances of progressing to AIDS are slight.
The Different Types of HIV Tests
You might want to know how this sort of test is different from all the other STD tests on the market. To understand why the RNA test is a good option, it can be helpful to see how it measures up to other tests.
HIV Antibody Test
This test checks your bodily fluids to see if it contains the antibodies your body produces while trying to fight off HIV. Blood is the most common fluid tested, but a swab of the mouth or a urine sample can also work. However, urine samples and mouth swabs tend to be less accurate. It has a testing window of anywhere between 3 to 12 weeks.
HIV Antibody/Antigen Test
This is a more updated version of the basic antibody test. It looks for both HIV antibodies and p24 antigens to get a more accurate result. Since HIV antigens can be detected within 2 to 6 weeks, it is a little quicker to use. (4th Generation HIV Test)
Nucleic Acid Test
Also called NATs, these are tests where a patient’s blood is sampled and then the lab looks to see if HIV genetic material is present. The HIV RNA is a type of NAT test, though there are a few others like PCR and viral load tests. All types of NAT can be used for early testing, but HIV RNA tests have the advantage of being a little cheaper.
Frequently Asked Questions
Want to learn more about the RNA test for HIV? Here are some of the common questions that customers at STDcheck.com ask us.
What is the cancellation policy for the RNA test?
STDcheck.com lets you cancel your order at any time before you go to the lab. You will get a refund that is minus the basic 20 percent cancellation fee. If you do not request a cancellation within 21 days of purchase, your refund will be in the form of STDcheck.com credits.
Are my results reported to anyone?
Labs may be required to report anonymous HIV statistics to government agencies, but all personal identifying information will be removed before this information is sent. There are currently no laws requiring your name and status to be registered.
Will the people at the lab know I’m being tested for HIV?
When you visit the lab, there will be nothing linking your name to the idea of an HIV RNA test, and since they are multipurpose offices, there is nothing linking them specifically to STD tests.
Will my card bill shows a charge from an HIV testing facility?
All bills and communications sent to you will be from the neutral sounding healthlabs.com association, so people cannot get information from looking at your finances.
How long will the lab visit for an HIV test take?
From start to finish, lab visits are normally no more than five minutes in length.
Last Updated: September 18, 2021