When You Should Take An Hiv Test
What testing service you should use, and which type of test, depends on when you might have been exposed to HIV. Signs of HIV infection dont show up in the blood right away. It normally happens within four weeks of infection, but can be longer.
If you think you might have been exposed to HIV in the last 72 hours , its possible to take post-exposure prophylaxis to help stop an infection from happening.
If your risk was recent, then your test provider will probably advise you to take a test immediately, followed by a second one a few weeks later. The second test will pick up any infection the first one may have missed.
If your risk was in the last three months, make sure you tell the person testing you, as it may affect the type of test youre given.
A self test is not guaranteed to pick up an infection thats occurred in the previous three months. If you think youve been exposed in the last three months, you should get a test in person.
Very occasionally it can take up to three months for antibodies to appear in the blood, so an HIV negative result is only totally accurate if three months have passed between the test and the last time a risk was taken. However, a negative result four to eight weeks after taking a risk is a very good sign that HIV infection hasnt happened.
Why Its Important To Test
If you have HIV, finding out means you can start treatment, stay healthy and avoid passing the virus onto anyone else. The sooner you start treatment, the less likely you are to become seriously ill. People who are diagnosed early and get on effective treatment can expect to live a normal lifespan.
Once youre on effective treatment and your viral load is undetectable then you can’t pass the virus on to anyone else.
If you wait to test, the virus could do a lot of damage. There is a lot of support available for people who test positive.
Ask The Experts About Hiv
Do you have a question about HIV/AIDS that youd like to ask our experts? Check out our Ask the Experts service, featuring our team of nationally known experts in the field of STIs and sexual health.
How accurate is a negative HIV test after 40 days of possible HIV exposure? Currently, it has been over 8 weeks since my possible HIV exposure. I dont have any symptoms. Should I keep testing for HIV until the six month window is over or was the HIV-1 RNA PCR result at 40 days enough?
It sounds like youve had two different kinds of HIV tests. The first kind, the one used by most clinics as a screening test, looks for antibodies produced by the immune system against the virus. Detectable antibody levels to HIV usually develop within two to eight weeks , but it sometimes takes longer. This test will almost always be reliable three months after exposure, so to be on the safe side, we recommend a second HIV antibody test if the first was done before 90 days after exposure.
The second test you mentioned is the HIV 1 RNA PCR. This is an additional test sometimes performed for people with a high-risk exposure and symptoms of acute HIV disease. An exposure would be considered high-risk, for example, if the partner was known to be HIV positive. If this test was negative at 40 days after exposure, you did not become infected from the exposure you mentioned.
J. Dennis Fortenberry, MD, MS
Versie Johnson-Mallard, PhD, RN, APRN, WHNP-BC
Will Wong, MD
Sexual Health Resource Center Staff
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Types Of Condomless Sex And Risk Of Hiv
During condomless sex, HIV in the bodily fluids of one person may be transmitted to the body of another person through the mucous membranes of the penis, vagina, and anus. In very rare cases, HIV could potentially be transmitted through a cut or sore in the mouth during oral sex.
Out of any type of condomless sex, HIV can most easily be transmitted during anal sex. This is because the lining of the anus is delicate and prone to damage, which may provide entry points for HIV. Receptive anal sex, often called bottoming, poses more risk for contracting HIV than insertive anal sex, or topping.
HIV can also be transmitted during vaginal sex without a condom, although the vaginal lining is not as susceptible to rips and tears as the anus.
The risk of getting HIV from oral sex without using a condom or dental dam is very low. It would be possible for HIV to be transmitted if the person giving oral sex has mouth sores or bleeding gums, or if the person receiving oral sex has recently contracted HIV.
In addition to HIV, anal, vaginal, or oral sex without a condom or dental dam can also lead to transmission of other STIs.
What Does A Negative Hiv Test Result Mean
A negative result doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have HIV. That’s because of the window periodthe time between when a person gets HIV and when a test can accurately detect it. The window period varies from person to person and is also different depending upon the type of HIV test.
Ask your health care provider about the window period for the kind of test youre taking. If youre using a home test, you can get that information from the materials included in the tests package. If you get an HIV test after a potential HIV exposure and the result is negative, get tested again after the window period for the test youre using to be sure. To learn more about the window period and when a person should get retested, see CDCs How soon after an exposure to HIV can an HIV test if I am infected?. If you get an HIV test within 3 months after a potential HIV exposure and the result is negative, get tested again in 3 more months to be sure.
If you learned you were HIV-negative the last time you were tested, you can only be sure youre still negative if you havent had a potential HIV exposure since your last test. If youre sexually active, continue to take actions to prevent HIV, like using condoms the right way every time you have sex and taking medicines to prevent HIV if youre at high risk.
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What Is Usually The First Sign Of Hiv
- Swollen lymph nodes: Lymph nodes are a part of the bodys immune system that helps get rid of bacteria and viruses. An HIV infection, like many other infections, can cause the inflammation of lymph nodes, which can be felt as round or nodular swellings in the armpit, groin, and neck. The swelling is often associated with aches and pains in these areas.
Dried Blood Spot Test
A DBS test is a free, accurate and convenient way to test for HIV in the comfort and privacy of your home.
It involves collecting a few drops of blood from your finger and allowing the blood to dry on a test card. You then send the card away to get tested and wait around a week to get the result back. You can register for a DBS HIV test here.
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Why You Should Quarantine After Exposure To Covid
If you’ve been exposed to the novel coronavirus, your first instinct might be to run out for a test, but being tested for COVID-19 too early in the incubation period could deliver a false sense of security and lead you to engage in risky behaviors that could cause others to become infected.
“Someone can get a positive test result as soon as two days after exposure, but we typically ask our patients to wait at least five days for most accurate test results,” Nailah Abdulbaaqee, MD, a primary-care provider at One Medical in Atlanta, told POPSUGAR.
However, there are no set guidelines for when a person with a known exposure should be tested for COVID-19, and a negative result early on in the two weeks after exposure is no excuse to skip the recommended quarantine. “Testing too early may show you are negative for COVID-19, but this does not mean that you cannot test positive later in the 14-day window,” said Kristin Dean, MD, a family medicine physician and medical director at Doctor On Demand. “COVID-19 symptoms may develop up to 14 days after the day of the last exposure to COVID-19.”
It’s difficult to nail down a timeline for testing because people can respond differently to the virus based on their individual immune system and the type of exposure that occurred, Dr. Dean explained. Additionally, “the virus takes time to replicate after exposure. Sometimes the virus circulating in your body is not sufficient to show up as positive on a COVID-19 test.”
Hiv Testing In A Health Care Setting Or Lab
If you take a test in a health care setting or a lab, a health care provider or lab technician will take your sample . If its a rapid test, you may be able to wait for the results, but if its a laboratory test, it can take several days for your results to be available. Your health care provider or counselor may talk with you about your risk factors, answer any questions you might have, and discuss next steps with you, especially if your result is positive.
- If the test comes back negative, and you havent had an exposure during the window period for the test you took, you can be confident you dont have HIV.
- If your HIV test result is positive, the lab will conduct follow-up testing, usually on the same sample as the first.
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How Often Should You Test For Hiv
Testing at least once a year for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections is good sexual health practice for everyone who is sexually active, even if you know you havent put yourself at risk of infection. Depending on how many different sexual partners you have in any one year, you might want to consider testing more regularly.
Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men should get tested routinely for HIV and other STIs – at least annually or every three months if having sex without condoms with new or casual partners.
Black African men and women should have a regular HIV and STI screen if having sex without condoms with new or casual partners.
Get Tested Regularly If You Are At Greater Risk Of Hiv
If you are at greater risk of HIV get tested regularly.
Gay, bisexual, trans and other men who have sex with men should get tested every 3 months . This may vary depending on how many sexual partners you have during the year.
Talk with your doctor or sexual health specialist for advice. They can also provide information about how to reduce your risk for HIV and other STIs.
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How Soon After Exposure To Hiv Can An Hiv Test Detect If You Are Infected
No HIV test can detect HIV immediately after infection. If you think youve been exposed to HIV, in the last 72 hours, talk to your health care provider about post-exposure prophylaxis , right away.
The time between when a person gets HIV and when a test can accurately detect it is called the window period. The window period varies from person to person and also depends upon the type of HIV test.
Where To Get An Hiv Test
Its never been easier to get an HIV test and to get a result quickly. You can get a test in person or order tests online, with free and paid-for options. Many tests will provide you with a result in a just a few minutes.
You can test in person at:
- An HIV testing centre, including those run by Terrence Higgins Trust.
- A GP/family doctor.
If you test at a sexual health clinic, testing centre or a GP then your test will be free. If you test at a private clinic, you will have to pay.
Face-to-face services may have different arrangements in place as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Please call them before attending.
You can also order tests online including:
- A self test, which you take yourself and see the result within a few minutes.
- A postal test, where you take a sample yourself and send it off to a lab, who will then contact you with your result.
We sell HIV self testing kits for just £15 to those most at risk of HIV. This site also offers free tests in some areas: Brighton and Hove, Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and the Scottish Health Board areas of Fife, Tayside, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire & Arran. Anyone living in Scotland who isn’t eligible for a free test through our service will be able to access one through the new HIV Self Test Scotland scheme when it reopens.
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How Long Does It Take To Show Symptoms Of Hiv
The human immunodeficiency virus is a virus that attacks your bodys immune system. Left untreated, it can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome . Early diagnosis is key to slowing down disease progression.
Symptoms may vary from person to person, but knowing the early symptoms that could present can help you get diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
This article will discuss the various stages of HIV, how symptoms may present, how testing works, and what to expect if you test positive for the virus.
It Takes A Few Days After Exposure To Produce A Positive Covid
There are no firm numbers on how long it takes to get an accurate positive test result. The time from exposure to the onset of symptoms is around two to 14 days, according to Harvard Health. Most peoples symptoms appear around day five, on average.
Its recommended that you wait to get tested for at least two to three days after potential exposure. Some health experts say five days after exposure might be a good testing point, since thats the median time when symptoms usually appear.
If you dont have any symptoms, you still may want to get tested a few times once about two or three days after exposure, and once again later on in the 14-day incubation period. If you are experiencing symptoms, get tested right away.
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Detecting Hiv: Seroconversion Time Is Important
When a person contracts the human immunodeficiency virus , timing can affect HIV test results. Although tests have become more accurate, none of them can detect an HIV infection immediately after its contracted.
The bodys defense mechanisms kick into action after contracting HIV. The immune system begins to develop antibodies to attack the virus. This production of HIV antibodies is called seroconversion. Before seroconversion, there may not be detectable levels of HIV antibodies in a persons blood.
Before seroconversion, an HIV blood test could produce a false negative result. A positive HIV antibody test will not appear until the body makes enough HIV antibodies to be detected.
If You Think You’ve Been Exposed
Occupational HIV exposure is rare but should be managed immediately as an urgent medical concern. If you think youve been exposed to HIV, follow these recommended steps:
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How Soon Can I Take An Hiv Test
This question usually refers to how soon after exposure can someone test for HIV.
This used to involve waiting 3 to 4 weeks before taking an HIV test .
However, 2020 UK guidelines now recommend waiting 6 weeks.
This is because 4th generation HIV tests will detect 99% of infections at 6 weeks compared to 95% of infections 4 weeks after exposure.
A negative test after four weeks needs to be confirmed with a second test three months after the risk. This is to cover the small chance that you take longer than four weeks to generate an antibody response.
Extending this to 6 weeks means the confirmatory test is no longer needed.
In high risk exposures, especially if symptoms occur, viral load testing is sometimes used after one week. This includes after a sexual assault or after a needlestick injury to a healthcare worker.
In these cases a viral load test can exclude an infection when there are symptoms.
Viral load tests are not approved to diagnose HIV. A negative result still needs to be confirmed by an antibody test three months after the risk.
Figure 6: Recommended time from exposure to HIV test *
* This diagram needs to be updated to show the six-week window.