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What is the difference between a blood HIV test and a finger poke HIV test?

There are different types of tests that help in diagnosing if a person is infected with HIV or not. In Manitoba there is point-of-care testing (POCT) and the standard blood test both of which need a sample of the person’s blood.

Point of care tests are also known as rapid tests. Rapid tests are designed to provide results in less than 20 minutes and can be performed in community-based settings like a clinic by trained personnel. The POCT testing kit will require a few drops of blood, which are taken from a finger poke. These rapid tests are used as screening tests for presence of HIV antibodies which means that a person can get a non-reactive (negative) test result within minutes, if it is reactive (positive), they are asked to go for a confirmatory blood test.

The standard blood test requires a vial of blood from the vein, which is then sent off to a laboratory for further analysis. The lab would perform different tests to confirm the diagnosis before sending out the result to the referring clinic or hospital. It can take up to 2 weeks for a person to receive his/her test result.

The standard HIV blood test consists of both antibody and antigen testing which gives it a shorter window period. It also includes confirmatory testing, unlike the POCT. POCT is 3rd generation antibody only test while the standard testing is a 4th generation combination testing. Not every health care setting in Manitoba offers POCT. The health care provider will recommend an appropriate test based on individual risk factors

Prior to undergoing both these tests window period will be considered. CATIE has more information about testing methods.