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Aug 2023

All you need to know about HIV RNA testing

Posted By Suborna Fermi Posted on Aug 16, 2023

HIV testing helps to detect Human immunodeficiency virus in the body. There are multiple types of testing available to detect this infection. Among all the other testing, a RNA test is done right after a possible exposure to the virus.

What is HIV?

HIV refers to the human immunodeficiency virus infection. This infection destroys the white blood cells (CD4 cells) of the immune system, which makes it harder for the immune system to fight off infections. In certain cases, untreated HIV infection may lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, commonly known as AIDS.

How does HIV spread?

HIV infection is mainly transmitted from person to person through bodily fluids, such as blood, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, semen, and breast milk. The human immunodeficiency virus can get into the body through a wound, skin cut, mouth, vagina, penis and anus.

Sharing needles and not using condoms for sex are the common ways HIV spreads. As the symptoms of HIV infection may take several years to arrive, one can spread this virus even if they feel healthy. This virus can also be transmittable in babies during pregnancy.

How is HIV diagnosed?

A HIV infection is diagnosed either through a blood test or saliva test. If the test reports suggests negative then you might not require further tests, if:

  • You have not been exposed to the virus in the past three months before the HIV test.
  • You have not been exposed to the virus within the window period of the test. If you do not know about the window period then please talk to your healthcare provider about this matter.

Apart from these factors, if you have had a possible exposure to this virus within the three months then you might require a retest. If your test results are positive, you must also require additional testing.

What is the HIV RNA test?

The HIV RNA test is also known as the viral load test that is used to detect if you have been exposed to the Human immunodeficiency virus. This test looks for the genetic material from the HIV in the blood sample. Doctors usually recommend taking a HIV-1, RNA Qualitative PCR test and HIV-1, RNA Quantitative PCR test to determine whether you have a HIV infection or not.

Why should you take a HIV RNA test?

Your doctor may recommend this test for several possible reasons, such as:

  • If you have a recent exposure to the virus: If you have had an exposure to someone who has HIV. This test will help to detect the virus sooner than the other HIV tests.
  • If you are experiencing early symptoms of the infection: You need this test if you are having the early symptoms of HIV infection. The early symptoms of HIV are very similar to flu-like symptoms, and these symptoms also go away within two to four weeks.
  • As a confirmation test for HIV: The HIV RNA test provides the accurate test results, thus this test is also used as a reconfirmation test of HIV. This test is also required if your HIV antibody test report is negative but HIV antigen test is positive. It also helps in resolving false-negative or false-positive reports.
  • As a monitoring test: If you are already diagnosed with a HIV infection, then you are required to manage the condition which is known as the viral load. As the HIV RNA test is known as viral load test, this test will help to determine the volume of this virus after the diagnosis. To determine the viral load, the first RNA test will take place between the two to eight weeks after the diagnosis. Your doctor will then continue to suggest this test every three to four months to monitor the progress of your treatment.

How is the HIV RNA test done?

The HIV RNA test is a simple blood test, only a blood sample is needed to perform the test. A medical professional will collect the blood sample through a vein in your arm and send it to the laboratory for testing. You are not required to take any preparation for the test including fasting. However, do talk with your doctor for any special guidance.

This test looks for the genetic material of HIV in the blood sample, and it has the shortest window period which can detect the presence of the virus within ten days after the exposure. Therefore, if you suspect that you might have contracted the virus or have symptoms of HIV, then do consult with your doctor immediately, as untreated HIV in the long run may lead to AIDS.