Today being National HIV Testing Day, it’s only appropriate you begin the day armed with the best possible information for combating HIV.

Human Immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV) is caused by an RNA-containing virus which directly attacks the immune and body defense systems. It begins by killing the immune system’s CD4T cells, making it weaker and slower. Eventually, the body stops responding to any foreign particles entering the body, resulting in the development of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

All HIV testing methods are designed to detect the presence of HIV or antibodies produced by bodies against infection with in the body. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people aged 13-64 should undergo HIV testing as a part of their routine health checkup since an HIV test is the only way to determine whether a person is carrying HIV or not.

Some diseases can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle while others cannot be prevented, however we can reduce their impact by detecting them in their early phases. Testing is one such method of detecting the virus quickly before the condition get worse. All screening and testing consists of a series of lab tests, medical tests, physical exams or radiologic exams performed by healthcare experts.

There are 3 broad types of HIV testing methods; antibody tests, combination or fourth –generation tests and nucleic acid tests (NAT). Although HIV rarely transmits itself through saliva, HIV-based tests are still performed on blood, oral fluids and urine.

The quickest HIV test is the antibody test which counts the amount of antibodies produced by the body when a person encounters an HIV infection. Furthermore, it takes 30 minutes or less to detect HIV using a blood sample compared to testing carried out with oral fluids.

There is another rapid antibody test known as OraQuick HIV Test, which functions by taking swabs containing oral fluids and providing their results in about 20 minutes. OraQuick’s  accuracy rate is less because antibodies in oral fluids are fewer in number than in blood samples.

The second antibody test is the Home Access HIV-1 System in which a blood sample is obtained through finger pricking and sent to a nearby laboratory center for testing.

A combination, or fourth-generation test, is designed to count both the antigen and antibody count in the body. In an HIV-infected person, an antigen known as p24 is present, however the body starts producing antibodies against the antigen, which are subsequently counted by the combination test.

The final test, nucleic acid test (NAT), is designed to check for the HIV virus in the blood rather than in the antibody or antigen. This test, despite taking about 7 to 28 days to detect HIV, is considered accurate during the early stages of the infection. NAT can either give a positive or negative result or indicate the actual amount of virus present in the body, known as viral load test.

HIV testing for couples planning to conceive could prove to be highly beneficial. All women who are pregnant should be tested in their first trimester. Moreover, another test is recommended for women in their third trimester, who are at a high risk of contracting an HIV infection.

HIV mostly spreads through anal and vaginal sex while also being transmitted through the use of infected or previously-used syringes or needles. For this reason, people persistently having unprotected sex or sharing injections should be tested at least once a year. Sexually active gay and bisexual men are also at high risk of contracting HIV, and therefore should be tested every 3-6 months.

According to CDC, humanity first received the HIV virus from chimpanzees. The HIV of chimpanzees known as Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV), transferred itself to humans and evolved into the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

According to CDC, in 2014, an estimated amount of 44,073 people were diagnosed with HIV. In the US, about 6955 people died of HIV in 2013 at which point HIV was recorded as the eighth-largest cause of death in the United States.

According to a new research from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Pennsylvania, cases of HIV infections have fallen by 11% from 2010 to 2015 in United States by adopting proper prevention, care services and by expanding diagnostics.

It’s vital to conduct timely screening because it’s the only way to detect a medical condition or disease, or in HIV’s case, an incurable disease.

The age-old adage about disease has constantly proven itself to be true — prevention is always better than cure. Similarly, if screening is carried out at the right time, a person will be able to live a better life or even better, if the results are negative, an HIV-free life.