This is the first test any doctor will recommend to detect antibodies of HIV. This test detects antibodies of  HIV 1 & 2 virus in blood. Antibodies are the immune response of human body for any alien entered into our body - virus or bacteria. The test method is called ELISA. This test is run in batches and most hospitals will do their batch in the morning. So be present in the morning if you want to do the test. Everyday they have operations to be performed on many patients. So for checking donor blood they do this test everyday in all big hospitals. Test costs about Rs.300.

They take your blood sample. HIV ELISA test in India most hospitals will take 24 hours for the result. The result will be available on the next day. The result is most easy to read. Its either -ve or +ve. Negative means you are clear but only if you are past the window period. The window period is the maximum time human body can take produce immune response (antibodies). This is 3 months for HIV. In 3 months most (95% or more) will have antibodies if they have HIV. Positive result does not confirm you have HIV. They usually do a repeat test to eliminate false positive results. ELISA test is very sensitive and can sometimes make false positive results. If the second test also turns positive then you will have to do another test called Western Blot. If Western Blot test also turns positive then the doctor will say you are HIV positive and you must take precautions, not to further spread. You may need change living habits like drop smoking, drinking alcohol etc. But there is no need to be panic as there are medicines available in India for treatment and you can live may be quite long but they cannot cure you from HIV. Western Blot costs about Rs.1500.

Also now there are Rapid tests available from Abbott Laboratories, which are as good as standard HIV ELISA. The result is available within 15 minutes. But in Kerala its very rare to find Rapid tests unless its available with some specialized doctors. There is also PCR test available in India, which can detect HIV virus directly in blood and not antibodies. This shortens the window period to about 28 days. They claims that, can detect virus in blood, if infected within 72 hours. SRL Ranbaxy is doing PCR in India with sample collection centers across the country.  It is not advisable to do this test for screening HIV. It is used to estimate the viral load on an already confirmed HIV patient. This test also used to check the babies whose mother is a hiv patient. PCR qualitative test costs about Rs.2000.

Recent developments like Nucleic Acid Testing (NAT) can bring down antibody based testing window down to 16 days. But presently I am not able to find a lab in India doing this test. NAT test for HCV infection can get the window period up to 72 days.

There is an experimental test called the Detuned EIA that was developed in San Francisco by the Irwin Memorial Blood Bank. This test is still not available outside of research settings, but in San Francisco HIV test sites, all new positives will soon be retested with the detuned EIA to see if they have recently seroconverted. A newly developed dual EIA testing strategy using a standard HIV EIA and a less sensitive HIV EIA (the Detuned Assay or 3A11DT) has been demonstrated to distinguish persons who have seroconverted within the past 129 days from persons who seroconverted sometime beyond the past 129 days. This helps to trace their partners and screen them for hiv. This test is not available in India.

If you are going to take HIV test my advice is, first of all do not give your correct address or name in the hospital records. If they confirm you have HIV, they need to inform Government Health. This is not to help you but for statistics. This information they are supposed to keep secret but will leak out and you will have to face discrimination in public at work and wherever you go in your native place. Anyway they are getting the count, but they do not necessarily need, the identity of the person. So do not tell correct address or name. In India there is no such thing called Anonymous Testing. 

Another thing is most people cannot wait for 3 months. They go after 1 month, 2 month etc.. and some do every week until its 3 months and even after. The Lab technician gets sick of this and other than that there is no harm. Also do not open your test result in front of them and create big scene there if you are positive. Anyway they know your result as they only sealed the cover. Open it only after you walk out of the lobby.

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