Human Immuno Deficiency Virus (HIV) is a deadly virus contracted via sexual contact or blood transfusion that causes severe health complications. The final stage of HIV infection is AIDS. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 38 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, about 1.7 million cases were newly reported infection in the year 2019 and 690,000 people have deceased due to HIV/AIDS in 2019.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) like HIV doesn’t show any symptoms of the infection at the early stage of the infection. You often experience symptoms only after 2 – 3 weeks of exposure to the virus. HIV RNA Test is done to detect the presence of HIV virus genetic material in the bloodstream within the second week (mostly on/after the 9th day) of the infection.
- HIV RNA Test Cost
- What is HIV?
- What is an HIV RNA Test?
- What are the signs and symptoms of HIV?
- Stages of HIV infection
- HIV RNA Test Window Period
- HIV RNA Test Accuracy
- HIV RNA Normal Range
- Is there any preparation required before the test?
- What is the treatment for HIV?
- How to prevent HIV?
- Provider Locations
For our readers, who are very much interested in knowing the HIV RNA test cost beforehand, we would like to begin with that section.
HIV RNA Test Cost
The cost of an HIV RNA test ranges between $119 and $277 in different labs and facilities across the U.S. No prior appointment is required. Compare the price, order your test online and visit the nearest lab during lab business hours.
Complete the procedure and get the results in your email in 2 to 3 business days. Doctor consultation is also available for further treatment or any kind of medical advice.
The following table shows the HIV RNA Test cost at 3 of our partner laboratories (CLIA – Certified) network located across the U.S.
HIV RNA test cost with insurance
Many health insurance policies in the U.S. do not cover the HIV RNA test cost. They might only cover the cost of the advanced tests performed. The coverage also depends on your insurance plan as some national insurance programs recommend HIV screening once a year and they cover the cost of HIV screening tests.
Our HIV RNA testing providers offer screening tests for HIV infection and do not accept any health insurance. But, they can provide you with an itemized receipt containing all the details like the name and code of the test, and CPT code which is necessary for insurance reimbursement purposes.
HIV explained in a short 3 minutes video:
What is HIV?
According to the statistics of the Centre for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimates about 1.3 million people are living with AIDS in the USA, approximately 14%, which is 1 in every 7 people not knowing it.
Human Immuno Deficiency Virus (HIV) is one of the deadly diseases that is caused by a virus. HIV/AIDS is a Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) where the virus enters the human bloodstream through sexual contact with an HIV infected person. HIV infection has the ability to mutate the CD4 cells and damage them causing permanent immunity destruction. When human anatomy loses the cells that bound the immune system, the body becomes vulnerable to any diseases, most commonly tuberculosis (TB), cancer, AIDS, kidney diseases, neurological complications & few other severe diseases. HIV/AIDS can also lead to death if not detected and diagnosed at the earliest.
What is an HIV RNA Test?
RNA refers to ‘Ribonucleic Acid’. RNA is a genetic material present in each and every cell in the bloodstream. The primary function of RNA, Ribonucleic Acid is to carry instructions. The RNA genome is essential for various biological formulations like coding, decoding, and the expression of certain genes.
There are two types of HIV infection, HIV-1 & HIV-2. HIV-2 type is not commonly seen in other countries except the African continent. HIV-1 is the most commonly reported type among the US public. The HIV RNA detects the presence of HIV-1 genetic material in the given blood specimen. HIV RNA test is also referred to as the Viral Load Test.
A standard HIV test is done to detect the antibodies your body produces to fight against the invader HIV virus. On the other hand, the HIV RNA test detects whether the virus is present by looking for the genetic material of the virus itself.
Usually, for the HIV infection, it takes quite a long time for the antibodies to develop at a detectable amount. The HIV RNA test helps in detecting and diagnosing by reducing the time between infection and detection than a regular HIV test. Regular Antigen/Antibody Tests can take anywhere from 18 – 90 days to turn positive. Whereas, HIV RNA produces accurate results in just 9 – 11 days since the exposure.
What are the signs and symptoms of HIV?
The most common symptoms of HIV in men & women include –
- Sore throat
- Muscle and joint pain
- Night sweat
- Genital or anal sores
- Coughing and breathing problems
- Rapid weight loss
- Memory problems
- Persistent headache
Though the symptoms of HIV do not show initially, the virus maintains a low profile and keeps manipulating and damaging the CD4 (T-cells or White Blood Cells) immune cells. Some people may experience the symptoms after 14 days or later and some may not notice the symptoms even for years. So, it is highly recommendable to get tested for HIV RNA if you experience the above symptoms and having multiple sex partners.
Stages of HIV infection
HIV infection is categorized according to the severeness of the symptoms exhibited.
The first stage is termed – Acute HIV infection where the virus has just entered the body and begun to manipulate.
The second stage is known as Chronic HIV, this is the stage when some people start experiencing actual symptoms of the disease, by now the infection has started to spread rapidly.
The final stage is known as AIDS (Acquired Immuno Deificny Syndrome), where the immune system is totally weakened and the infected person is open to acquire any disease otherwise a healthy person does not get affected easily.
First stage: Acute HIV
Acute HIV usually shows little-no symptoms of the disease. Fever, headache, and fatigue which flu-like symptoms shown in the first stage. It may take up to 2 – 3 weeks for the symptoms to occur after the initial exposure. In the Acute stage, the HIV virus is in tiny quantities that make the regular tests undetectable. You may not experience the symptoms until the virus gets manipulated massively. Some people will get to know only when the infection reaches the Chronic HIV stage.
Symptoms of Acute HIV infection include –
- Sore throat
- Muscle Pain
- Severe Chillness
Second stage: Chronic HIV
During the Chronic HIV stage, the virus has already taken over or damaged the CD4 (T-cells, or White Blood Cells), helping them to replicate more quickly. Some people do not experience any symptoms at all or see only flu-like symptoms caused due to Acute HIV stage. People tend to ignore the early warnings and end up seeing severe symptoms in the upgraded, chronic HIV stage.
Symptoms of Chronic HIV infection include –
- Breathing Problems
- Loss of Appetite
- Sore/Rash on Genitals & Skin
Final stage: AIDS
If the virus has replicated on a large scale, leaving no room for the CD4 cells to guard the body, it is termed as the final stage, AIDS. AIDS (Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome) is a stage where the HIV virus attacks the host’s immune system, weakening its ability to fight infections and disease. There is no cure for AIDS, once an infected reached the final stage, he/she has 2 – 3 more years to live.
Symptoms of AIDS include –
- Continuous Fever
- Night sweat
- Memory Loss
HIV RNA Test Window Period
The HIV ‘window period’ refers to the time taken to generate a 100% accurate result. A typical window period for an HIV test takes a lot of factors to arrive at a time period accuracy. Like, the time between viral transmission and antibody production and the type of HIV testing performed – different tests have different window periods.
For HIV Testing, the HIV RNA test is considered the fastest testing method to detect the virus. HIV RNA test can measure the genetic material of the virus in just 9 – 11 days since the exposure. Researchers claim that RNA tests are 99% accurate, so there is no need to worry about effectiveness or reliability. Standard HIV tests usually measure the levels of the antibodies that fight the HIV virus, compared to newer RNA-based tests, which estimate the amount of virus circulating (viral load) in the bloodstream.
In this viral infection, the antibodies in reaction to the virus take nearly 3 months to manipulate at a detectable level of antibodies. This is why many standard HIV tests taken for early detection are shown as false negatives or false positives. On the other hand, the HIV RNA test detects the virus as soon as it is measurable in the bloodstream, long before antibodies begin to develop.
HIV RNA is the latest and advanced way of screening for HIV. Having the advantage to detect a new HIV infection without the presence of the body’s proteins (antibodies) that are secreted in order to combat infections in the bloodstream, makes the HIV RNA test the most accurate and reliable early HIV detection test on the market today.
HIV RNA Test Accuracy
The HIV RNA test is the only FDA-approved test for HIV early detection tests on the market.
The HIV RNA test is around 95-99% accurate starting around 9-11 days post-exposure and will stand at about 99% accuracy around 28 days post-exposure. If taken at the recommended window period, the HIV RNA (viral load) test is highly accurate, so you can have confidence in your results. Check out the standard Antibody/Antigen HIV Test Cost & Procedures here.
After a person has been infected with HIV, there is a four-week gap where the virus may not be detected by a regular blood test. After this gap period, the accuracy and reliability of the test result increase significantly. If you suspect that you’ve been exposed to the HIV virus, you can take the HIV RNA early detection for a precautionary measure, but should also consider a standard re-test after 6-8 weeks to be assured of your status. You should not wait for the window period to pass before seeking help and advice. A standard antibody/antigen test is highly accurate after 4 weeks and 100% error-free after 8 weeks.
HIV RNA Normal Range
The viral load (HIV RNA) tests measure the amount of HIV in the blood, they are measured as the number of copies of HIV RNA per milliliter of blood. HIV RNA levels are required to be at lower levels. Thus lower levels are considered safe and untransmittable.
Studies show that the threshold was 200 copies/ml. If the test results show a viral load of below 200 copies/ml and maintained it below 200 copies/ml for at least 6 months, you are continuing to have good adherence against HIV. The primary goal of HIV treatment/drugs is to reduce the HIV viral load to an “undetectable” level. High HIV RNA levels are related to faster disease progression and an abrupt decrease in CD4 cells.
Reducing the HIV viral load to undetectable levels (below slows 200 copies/ml) stops the infection progression. HIV treatment aims at suppressing the activity of the virus but it does not help in curing it. Even if HIV levels are not detectable in the bloodstream, the HIV virus will be forever present in your body and will rebound to detectable if the HIV medicines are stopped.
Is there any preparation required before the HIV RNA test?
There is no special preparation like fasting or dieting required before the HIV RNA Test. You can continue to have a normal diet and regular activities.
What is the treatment for HIV?
If tested positive for HIV, do not panic. Keep calm and react accordingly as per the stage of your HIV infection. You are lucky if you had detected the infection at an early stage, you can get diagnosed and treated. But, there is no cure for advanced AIDS/HIV infection. Anti-retroviral drugs are used for HIV treatment. This treatment is called antiretroviral therapy. Anti-retroviral drugs help in controlling the virus and reduce the symptoms exhibited.
This therapy plays a vital role not only for the treatment of severe HIV infection but for people being treated for Hepatitis B or C, and people having low CD4 cell count.
How to prevent HIV?
For diseases that don’t have any cure, it is always better to take self precautionary measures than worrying to get tested for STDs after unprotected sex. Unlike other diseases, there is no vaccine to cure HIV/AIDS infection. The following are some of the methods to prevent HIV
- Regular HIV testing
- Practicing sex with your wife only – avoid having sex with strangers
- Always use a new and clean needle to inject the drugs and while blood donation/transfusion
- Sharing the knowledge of HIV to your sex partners and encouraging them to get tested.
HIV RNA testing can be done in any of the following locations across the U.S. by visiting the nearest lab. To know the HIV RNA test cost, refer to the first section of the article.
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Puerto Rico
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Frequently Asked Questions
Will insurance cover my testing cost?
No, insurance will not be covered in the billing. However, they will provide you a receipt for insurance reimbursement purposes.
How should I book my appointment?
You can choose the most suitable provider from above and make an appointment by following the instructions mentioned by them.
Can I cancel my lab test order?
Yes, you can cancel your lab test order anytime before your testing. A refund will be initiated after deducting the cancellation fee. However, cancellation is at the discretion of the provider.
Do the providers offer result interpretations?
Yes, a few providers may provide doctor consultation who will take you through the results and provide clarification if needed.
How do I receive my report?
To ensure your privacy, the test report will be mailed to you by the provider.
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