#235360 - 01/17/08 01:41 PM
is RNA testing available? RNA Testing for HIV
RNA testing is available in King County for
all gay, bisexual and other men who have
sex with men (MSM) who test for HIV at
STD Clinic at Harborview
Gay City Health Project
Downtown needle exchange
Other individuals at high risk for HIV (e.g.,
people who have sex or share needles
with a partner who has HIV) who have
symptoms of acute infection may be able
to get RNA testing on a case-by-case
basis through Public Health. Most private
doctors can provide RNA testing, but the
patient will pay a fee.
How is RNA testing done?
RNA testing requires a blood sample.
Finger stick or rapid versions are not yet
Can you get an RNA test along with a
rapid HIV antibody test?
Yes. After the rapid test, you will have to
give a blood sample for RNA testing. If
actual HIV virus
1 - 2 weeks
blood, no rapid
1 - 3 weeks
antibodies to HIV
1 - 3 months
blood, oral, rapid
1 week, 20 minutes for rapid
Options for testing......
Wait time for results....
RNA/PCR/NAAT Test Antibody Test
There are several ways to test for HIV.
The most standard HIV tests don’t look
for the actual virus but rather antibodies
to the virus. RNA tests, however,
find the HIV virus itself by looking for
its genetic material (RNA). It can also
tell how much HIV is there, which is
called “viral load.” When people living
with HIV talk about getting their “viral
load tests,” they are talking about a
version of this RNA test.
Comparing antibody and RNA tests
HIV antibody tests are the most common
and standard tests for HIV. They
can test blood or oral fluids. The
As someone working in HIV or STDs, you may be hearing
more about RNA testing. It is also called PCR testing or NAAT (nucleic acid
amplification testing). RNA testing detects HIV at an earlier stage
than standard antibody testing. This fact sheet explains RNA testing and
will help you answer questions from patients or clients.
What is RNA Testing?
samples are tested at a lab or through
on-site rapid tests. These tests look for
antibodies made by the immune
system in response to HIV. It takes about
1 month (sometimes up to 3 months)
after infection for enough antibodies to
show up on a test.
This time between infection and when it
will actually show up on a test is called
the window period. During the window
period, a person does in fact have HIV
but not enough antibodies yet to show
up on an HIV antibody test. If a person
has an antibody test during this window
period, the results may not be accurate.
For more information on
call the HIV/STD Hotline at
blood is collected for some other reason
(like syphilis screening), it can also be
used for RNA testing.
How long does it take to get results?
It takes longer to get RNA results because
RNA tests are processed differently than
antibody tests. Some RNA results may
come back in 1 week, but 2 weeks is
How reliable is an RNA test?
Both RNA and antibody tests can sometimes
produce false-positive results. Falsepositive
RNA test results occur in 2.6 - 5%
of testers, depending on how common
HIV infection is in the population. People
who test RNA-positive should have a
repeat blood draw and an antibody test
(after the window period) to confirm
Can an RNA test be anonymous?
Yes. The testing provider can discuss the
pros and cons of both confidential and
anonymous testing. Confidential testing
is the best way to assure people will get
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