What Is a Rapid HIV Test?

The human immunodeficiency virus, while harmless in itself, poses a threat to humans by destroying the white blood cells. This weakens their immune system and makes them susceptible to a plethora of other fatal diseases. Luckily, nowadays it can be managed with a variety of antiretroviral treatments. However, it has to be diagnosed first, and the sooner – the better, while it hasn’t turned into AIDS. For this purpose, rapid HIV testing exists.

👍Main Facts and Advantages of a Rapid HIV Test

Considering how dangerous and life-threatening HIV is, many techniques have been developed to check the presence of the virus in an individual.

Rapid HIV tests are used to screen people for the infection.

As the name suggests, this procedure can provide results quickly so that further measures can be planned without delay [1] [2].

A rapid HIV test is performed much similar to a rapid plasma reagin test. Both collect either blood or saliva as a sample from the patient. Blood is collected with a syringe, while saliva is collected by rubbing a special medical swab on the subject’s gums. The sample is then studied to detect the presence of HIV through medical procedures, and the results are conveyed to the patient. Sometimes a counseling session is due afterward.

Here are some of the advantages of taking a rapid test:

  1. It quickly screens people for HIV.
  2. The waiting time is reduced so people can know their results immediately and begin treatment without delay if required.
  3. It is simple enough to be performed without advanced medical equipment. So, this procedure is readily available in many clinics, hospitals, and health centers.
  4. It is suitable for people who are afraid of or uncomfortable with syringes.
  5. Since rapid HIV tests can be performed quickly, they are useful in screening a larger number of people in a short time.

Although this procedure has a number of benefits, its accuracy is a matter of concern.

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⏳How Long Does It Take?

The reason why the rapid HIV test is named as such is that it can provide results within 20 to 30 minutes. This means that a patient can return home soon after that. No other HIV tests can read results this fast, but the reliability of this procedure is not always satisfactory for medical conclusions to be made, which will be discussed below.

🎯How Accurate Is a Rapid HIV Blood Test

So, how accurate are these screenings? The results of rapid HIV tests are not 100% accurate. However, additional measures are often adopted to confirm the findings.

If the results are positive, meaning HIV is detected in a subject, then the next step is to perform more advanced inquiries such as antigen and antibody tests or a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) [3]. This also helps to avoid the cases of false-positive results (showing positive even when HIV is not present) of the rapid HIV test.

If a subject is found to be HIV negative, they still can’t be relieved. The results can be falsely negative, meaning the antibodies may not have been detected even when they are present.

One of the various reasons that the test might provide negative results is when it is conducted during the window period of HIV. The window period is the time it takes for an infected person to produce a detectable amount of HIV antibodies after exposure to the virus.

For the infection, this period can range from 2 to 4 weeks. If a subject is tested during this time, the results are bound to be negative. In such cases, they will be called for another test after a few weeks.

When the results of rapid tests are combined with other advanced inquiry techniques, the final finding will be accurate.

If the individual tests HIV-negative but is at a high risk of contracting the infection, PrEP treatment is administered. Read other articles on HIVPrEP to discover more about it.

🏥Where Can I Get This Test?

The rapid test kits make use of simple procedures that are conducted in most hospitals and clinics. You can get information about them at your nearest health center or search online for it. Other than that, authorities and non-profit organizations often set up health camps where they perform free rapid HIV tests for interested people.

💵What Is the Cost of Rapid HIV Test?

Its cost varies depending on the location, currency, and whether the procedure is performed in a small clinic or a well-established hospital. On average, the cost of this test will be around $40 to $70 [4], and will usually include pre-test and post-test counseling as well. However, most insurance plans should cover it, so check yours.

📅When Should I Do Such Testing?

HIV can only be transmitted from an infected individual and only through direct transfer of body fluids. If any incident occurs, where you feel like you’ve been exposed to the body fluids of an infected person, then you should go for a rapid HIV test and post-test counseling right away.

However, it’s beneficial to conduct the procedure occasionally even when you are not suspicious, just as a regular check-up to see if you are free from the virus [5].


  1. Nucleic Acid Amplification Testing (NAT) of Blood Donors for HCV and HIV. Last Update Posted: March 4, 2008. Clinicaltrials.gov.
  2. Testing. Last Reviewed: December 3, 2019. Cdc.gov.
  3. Rapid HIV Test. By Steven Fine, MD, PhD. Reviewed: October 10, 2019. Emedicinehealth.com.
  4. Cost of rapid HIV testing at 45 U.S. hospitals. Pinkerton SD, Bogart LM, Howerton D, Snyder S, Becker K, Asch SM. AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2010;24(7):409–413. doi:10.1089/apc.2009.0348. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
  5. Rapid HIV Testing. By Jacob D Isserman, MD. Updated: February 4, 2019. Emedicine.medscape.com.
Logan Morris

Expert in pharmaceutical practice and antiviral medicine, founder of HIVPrEP. Main goal is to popularize HIV topics and create awareness for global masses on how to prevent the disease and how to use HIV medication safely.

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