Most home HIV testing kits detect antibodies generated against the virus in your bloodstream. Usually, they give a pretty accurate representation of your current HIV status. However, these home kits may not always return a conclusive result.
An inconclusive HIV test result means that the testing kit could not determine your HIV status accurately. This inconclusiveness may either be due to an insufficient sample or a fault in the testing kit itself. These tests are neither positive nor negative. Tests may also return an inconclusive test if the test is done during the window period of the disease. Several other factors such as pregnancy, viral infections other than HIV, and even an autoimmune disease may be responsible for your inconclusive HIV results as well.
Several factors can lead to an inconclusive test result and knowing what caused it may help you understand your current HIV status more. Whatever the cause, it is always good to consult a doctor and get retested for HIV as soon as possible.
WHAT CAUSES AN INCONCLUSIVE HIV TEST RESULT?
Several factors can cause an inconclusive HIV test result. An inconclusive test result might appear either due to insufficient sample or the test itself being "indeterminate".
An insufficient sample means that the amount of sample used for testing was less than optimal. Repeating the given test appropriately with a sufficient amount of sample should return a conclusive HIV test result.
Multiple factors can cause indeterminate testing. One main reason for unclear test results is testing done during the window period. After a high-risk exposure to HIV, the virus needs time to multiply inside the host to cause a full-blown infection. During this time, the antibodies produced in response to the virus are low in number. This is known as the window period. The level of antibodies in the bloodstream can be significantly low during the window period, enough to prevent the testing kit from detecting their levels.
Inconclusive test results can be falsely positive, false negative, or somewhere in between. An inconclusive result after a high-risk exposure to HIV could mean that the test was employed during the window period of the disease. Similarly, a positive result with a low-risk history of HIV exposure could merely be a false-positive result. Factors responsible for the inconclusive result, other than testing during the window period, are:
- A recent viral infection other than HIV
- An autoimmune disease
- Blood transfusions
- A faulty testing kit
- A faulty testing method
Whatever the cause of inconclusiveness, it is extremely important that you know how to deal with an indeterminate test if it shows up.
WHAT TO DO AFTER AN INCONCLUSIVE HIV TEST RESULT?
The best course of action to take after getting an inconclusive HIV test result is to get a repeat test. You can repeat the test using a new home testing kit or go to your local HIV testing clinic to get more accurate guidance.
Repeating the test with a home HIV kit is easy as you can easily execute it at home. However, repeating tests with home HIV testing kits can get very expensive very quickly. Simply repeating the HIV test does not guarantee a conclusive test the next time around. Whatever the cause for an inconclusive test, it is essential to weed it out first so that you can better understand your current HIV status.
For accurate and reliable information about your HIV status, talk to your healthcare provider. Your doctor may carry out another HIV test in the clinic or send your sample to a more specialized laboratory. Your doctor may also be able to tell you the cause of your inconclusive test result and make sure that the same result does not repeat or is accurate.
You can also visit a local HIV testing clinic in your area. You can easily find these testing clinics online through a quick google search. There are plenty of HIV testing centers, both public-run and private clinics, that can help you determine your HIV status accurately. Moreover, most of these testing facilities are inexpensive or even free and covered in your health insurance. Visit an IMG Health Clinic near you for fast and free testing and comprehensive treatment 1-800-773-7066.
WHEN SHOULD I GET A REPEAT HIV TEST?
Most inconclusive test results usually come out to be negative on the repeat test. However, inconclusive does not mean negative, which is why you must take prompt action.
If the inconclusive test result was due to testing during the window period of HIV, repeating the test after six weeks will provide a more accurate result. Six weeks is how long it can take for antibodies to present themselves in your bloodstream up to a detectable level. If the inconclusiveness was due to any other cause listed above, repeating the test right away may give you a better idea.
MORE ACCURATE METHODS FOR HIV TESTING
Multiple types of HIV tests are available. As with all other diagnostics tests, some HIV detection methods are much more reliable than others. Depending on several factors, your doctor may recommend any one of the following tests after getting an inconclusive test result the first time around.
Most home HIV testing kits detect the level of anti-HIV antibodies in your bloodstream. These tests rely on blood or an oral sample to detect antibodies. These antibody-based tests are also the only rapid tests approved by the FDA for self-testing. While they can be fairly reliable, antibody tests can take up to 90 days to detect the level of antibodies in your bloodstream.
There are also antibody/antigen tests that work essentially on the same principle as the antibody tests. However, they also detect HIV antigen – a surface marker found on the virus itself. An antibody/antigen test performed in a laboratory can accurately detect your HIV status 18 to 45 days after exposure.
Nucleic Acid Tests, also known as NATs, hunt for the actual virus in your blood to determine your HIV status. These tests do not rely on the production of antibodies or antigens; thus, they are usually faster and more reliable. However, these tests can be fairly expensive, so they are not employed in routine HIV testing. A NAT can detect HIV in your blood in 10 to 33 days after an HIV exposure.