What does a positive rapid HIV test mean?

A positive rapid HIV test is interpreted as a preliminary positive. Because no test can be both 100% sensitive (no false-negative results) and 100% specific (no false-positive results), a given test is typically designed to primarily possess one of these characteristics at the expense of the other. A rapid HIV test is a screening test meaning that it is a sensitive test but not specific. Practically, this translates to more false-positive test results. This is why all positive rapid HIV test results require confirmation with a subsequent supplemental HIV test different from the initial test. In certain situations, such as labor, it may be necessary to initiate treatment prior to obtaining a confirmatory result. Other times treatment can be delayed until a confirmatory test result is obtained. The Illinois Perinatal HIV Hotline is available to help you make these treatment decisions.