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Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)

Testing And Diagnosis

One year after the isolation of HIV, the ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test was developed, allowing detection of HIV antibodies well before the onset of any clinical manifestations, creating an opportunity for preventive therapy against opportunistic infections (Bellutta 1995). The required pre- and post-test counseling for the ELISA tests has been shown to help people to make informed decisions, cope better with their potential health condition, lead more positive lives, and prevent further transmission of HIV. Because the number of false positives is high, a positive ELISA test must be confirmed by a more specific test, the Western blot, which detects specific anti-bodies to a particular pathogen (Gant 1998). In many countries, home tests were approved in mid-1990s, and the oral collection (OraSure) for HIV antibody test was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States in 1996. These tests are not very reliable, and support such as pre- and post-test counseling is not available ("Fact Sheet 1 HIV/AIDS: The Infection" 2000).

The advent of HIV testing brought with it the need for guidelines surrounding the confidentiality of test results and anonymity of the individual during the testing process to protect that person against social stigmatization and economic exploitation. These measures are also intended to encourage widespread testing, so that medical care and support services can be instituted early in the process.

HIV attacks and destroys CD4 T-lymphocytes, which assist in the regulation of the entire immune system. CD-4 lymphocytes, also called CD-4 cells, T4cells, and CD-4 lymphocytes, are a type of blood cell important to the immune system. The loss of these cells reduces the system's ability to fight infection, increasing the risk of opportunistic infections, or infections that can take hold because a person's immune system is weak (Gant 1998). AIDS can be described as a continuum that begins with infection by the HIV virus leading to decreasing numbers of CD-4 cells and eventual progress to opportunistic diseases (Bellutta 1995).


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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Health IssuesAcquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) - History, Modes Of Transmission, Testing And Diagnosis, Symptoms, Treatment, Psychosocial Issues, Global Implications