Diagnosis of AIDS

The doctor will ask about your symptoms, medical history, and risk factors, and perform a physical exam. If you have risk factors for AIDS or the doctor suspects you may be infected with HIV, he or she can order a blood test to confirm the diagnosis.

HIV tests include:

ELISA Test – This test is used to detect HIV infection. If an ELISA test is positive, the Western blot test is usually performed to confirm the diagnosis. The ELISA test may be negative if you were infected with HIV recently. Many people with HIV (95%) will have a positive test within three months of the time they became infected. Most people with HIV (99%) will have a positive test within six months. If an ELISA test is negative, but you think you may have HIV, you should be tested again in 1-3 months.

Western Blot – This test is very specific at identifying HIV. It is used to confirm a positive ELISA test result.

OraQuick Rapid HIV-1 Antibody Test – This is a preliminary test using saliva that should be confirmed by an ELISA test.

CD4+T Cell Count – This is a blood test used to evaluate the status of your immune system.

Viral Load Test – This is a test to measure the amount of HIV in your blood.

Other Blood Tests – If you are infected with HIV, additional blood tests may be ordered to check for other blood-borne infections.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/.

Conn's Current Therapy 2001 . 53rd edition. WB Saunders Company; 2001.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Quality assurance guidelines for testing using the OraQuick® Rapid HIV-1 Antibody Test. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services; 2003.

Last reviewed January 2007 by Jill D. Landis, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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