When To Get Tested
Seek medical advice immediately if you think there’s a chance you could have HIV. The earlier it’s diagnosed, the earlier you can start treatment and avoid becoming seriously ill.
Some HIV tests may need to be repeated 1-3 months after exposure to HIV infection, but you should not wait this long to seek help.
A GP or a sexual health professional can talk to you about having a test and discuss whether you should take emergency HIV medicine.
Anti-HIV medicine called post-exposure prophylaxis may stop you becoming infected if taken within 72 hours of being exposed to the virus.
Screening For Hiv In Pregnancy
If you’re pregnant, you’ll be offered a blood test to check if you have HIV as part of routine antenatal screening.
If untreated, HIV can be passed to your baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding. Treatment in pregnancy greatly reduces the risk of passing HIV on to the baby.
Page last reviewed: 22 April 2021 Next review due: 22 April 2024
Why Do I Need An Hiv Test
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. You may also need an HIV test if you are at higher risk for infection. HIV is mainly spread through sexual contact and blood, so you may be at a higher risk for HIV if you:
- Are a man that has had sex with another man
- Have had sex with an HIV-infected partner
- Have had multiple sex partners
- Have injected drugs, such as heroin, or shared drug needles with someone else
HIV can spread from mother to child during birth and through breast milk, so if you are pregnant your doctor may order an HIV test. There are medicines you can take during pregnancy and delivery to greatly reduce your risk of spreading the disease to your baby.
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What Do The Results Mean
If your result is negative, it can mean you donât have HIV. A negative result may also mean you have HIV but itâs too soon to tell. It can take a few weeks for HIV antibodies and antigens to show up in your body. If your result is negative, your health care provider may order additional HIV tests at a later date.
If your result is positive, you will get a follow-up test to confirm the diagnosis. If both tests are positive, it means you have HIV. It does not mean you have AIDS. While there is no cure for HIV, the disease can be effectively controlled with medicine. The medicine used to treat HIV is called antiretroviral therapy . ART can significantly reduce the amount of HIV in the blood. People with HIV who take ART before the disease gets too advanced can live long, healthy lives. If you are living with HIV, itâs important to see your health care provider regularly.
Hiv Testing Outside Of A Health Care Setting Or Lab
If you are tested outside of a health care setting or lab you will likely receive a rapid HIV test
- If the test comes back negative, and you havent had a possible exposure during the previous 3 months, you can be confident you dont have HIV.
- If your test result is positive, you should go to a health care provider to get follow-up testing. Counselors providing the test should be able to answer questions and provide referrals for follow-up testing as well. You can use the HIV.gov locator to find a provider near you.
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How Long Does It Take Hiv To Show Up
If you have put yourself at risk from HIV you will want to know how long does it take HIV to show up in your body, but unfortunately the time taken for the antibodies to appear in testable numbers can vary.
How long does HIV take to show up in a test?
Once you are infected with the HIV virus, your body will begin to fight against the intruder and produce antibodies. Initially, there will not be enough antibodies to register on an HIV test, but this does not mean that they are not present. Some people develop flu-like symptoms around two weeks following exposure to the virus and there is a small window of opportunity for an HIV test to be carried out at this point.
How long does HIV take to show up in a blood test?
The most common way of detecting if you are infected with the HIV virus is via an RNA blood test and the point at which the levels of HIV antibodies are high enough to be detectable is known as the seroconversion. Everybody who has been infected by the HIV virus will eventually produce enough HIV antibodies to go through the seroconversion.
For many people, this happens about 1 month after infection, but it can sometimes take as long as 6 months to reach seroconversion. This is the main reason why it is vital for anyone who has been exposed to the HIV virus to be re-tested 3-6 months following infection. This is vital as an earlier test done within 1 month might be a false-negative.
How long does HIV take to show up in your blood?
To 28 Days After Exposure
The exception: a symptom called lymphadenopathy, the sometimes painful swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, behind the ears, under the armpits, or in the upper groin region. Even when the other symptoms have disappeared, lymphadenopathy may continue for months or even longer.
âThe important thing to remember is that the resolution of symptoms does not mean the infection is gone,â says Dennis Sifris, MD, an HIV specialist with the Lifesense Disease Management Group, located in South Africa. âHIV is not like hepatitis, which can spontaneously clear. HIV is forever and is better treated sooner rather than later.â
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How Do The Tests Work
Most HIV tests use a blood sample, either from a blood draw or finger prick. Others use saliva , but this is a little less accurate than blood tests.
Some HIV tests look for the virus itself. But most look for the antibodies for HIV. Antibodies are part of the immune system and fight infections. When someone is infected with HIV, the body creates antibodies to fight HIV.
Testing results may be available that day or can take longer come back.
What Is The Difference Between An Std And Sti
The term STD is often used interchangeably with the term sexually transmitted infection . But despite this common misconception, STDs and STIs arent exactly the same. Each term has a specific meaning:
- STI. An STI is a sexually transmitted infection and doesnt cause any symptoms. Instead, an STI refers to the presence of the virus, bacteria, or other pathogens in your body.
- STD. An STD is a sexually transmitted disease, which does cause symptoms. It happens when the pathogens in your body have led to the cell damage that produces symptoms.
Put simply, an infection just means the presence of the pathogen is in your body, while a disease means youre having symptoms. A condition is only considered an STD if there are symptoms.
This might seem like a small difference, but the distinction is important. This is especially true for STIs that rarely cause symptoms, like chlamydia or gonorrhea. For many people, these STIs wont ever progress to STDs.
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How To Tell If Symptoms Are Hiv
There are three types of HIV tests:
- An NAT involves drawing blood from a vein. It can tell if you have HIV or how much virus is present in your blood. While an NAT can detect HIV sooner than other types of tests, this test is very expensive and not routinely used for screening individuals unless they recently had a high-risk exposure, or a possible exposure and have early symptoms of HIV infection. This test takes several days for results to come back.
- An antigen/antibody testis recommended for testing done in labs and is now common in the United States. It involves drawing blood from a vein, and results take several days to come back. There is also a rapid antigen/antibody test available that is done with a finger prick and takes 30 minutes or less to get results.
- HIV antibody testsonly look for antibodies to HIV in your blood or oral fluid. In general, antibody tests that use blood from a vein can detect HIV sooner after infection than tests done with blood from a finger prick or with oral fluid. Antibody tests can detect an HIV infection 23 to 90 days after exposure. Most rapid tests and the only currently approved HIV self-test are antibody tests. They take 20 minutes or less to provide results.
Keep in mind, any positive result would necessitate a second test to confirm it. The only test that would not require a second confirmatory test is the NAT.
Making Hiv Testing Routine
You might want to test more regularly than this, for example, if you are having sex with a new partner or feel you are more at risk. Groups who are more at risk are recommended to test more regularly. Testing every 3-6 months is often advised for men who have sex with men.
Testing regularly helps keep your mind at rest, and if you test positive, it means you can start treatment quickly, protecting your health.
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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.
Understanding Hiv And Aids
Generally speaking, the time it takes to go from HIV infection to AIDS is around five to 10 years if no medical intervention is made. Differences in time can be due to any number of factors, including:
- The genetic strain of HIV a person has been infected with
- The general health of the individual
- The place where the person lives
- A personâs genetics or family history
- Smoking and other personal lifestyle choices
This is, of course, if the person receives no treatment. The picture changes entirely if he or she does.
Since 1996, the introduction of antiretroviral drugs has dramatically altered the natural progression of HIV infection. While HIV still cannot be cured, people newly diagnosed with HIV who get treated and stay in care can be expected to have near-normal to normal life expectancies. As with other chronic diseases, early detection is key to identifying and treating the infection as soon as possible.
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What Are The Factors That Affect Disease Progression
The most important factor affecting HIV progression is the ability to achieve viral suppression. Taking antiretroviral therapy regularly helps many people slow the progression of HIV and reach viral suppression.
However, a variety of factors affect HIV progression, and some people progress through the phases of HIV more quickly than others.
Factors that affect HIV progression can include:
- Ability to achieve viral suppression. Whether someone can take their antiretroviral medications and achieve viral suppression is the most important factor by far.
- Age when symptoms start. Being older can result in faster progression of HIV.
- Health before treatment. If a person had other diseases, such as tuberculosis, hepatitis C, or other sexually transmitted diseases , it can affect their overall health.
- Timing of diagnosis. Another important factor is how soon a person was diagnosed after they contracted HIV. The longer between their diagnosis and treatment, the more time the disease has to progress unchecked.
- Lifestyle. Practicing an unhealthy lifestyle, such as having a poor diet and experiencing severe stress, can cause HIV to progress more quickly.
- Genetic history. Some people seem to progress more quickly through their disease given their genetic makeup.
Some factors can delay or slow the progression of HIV. These include:
Living a healthy lifestyle and seeing a healthcare provider regularly can make a big difference in a persons overall health.
If I Am Diagnosed With Hiv Can I Tell When I Got It
In general, NO. A skilled healthcare provider can generally estimate how long you have been infected by looking at the levels of virus in your body, your CD4 count, and whether or not you have had any opportunistic infections. If you are currently suffering from symptoms of acute HIV infection, a healthcare provider can usually conclude that infection occurred within the past few weeks.
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Days To 20 Years After Exposure
The chronic stage of infection occurs once the immune system brings the virus under control. During this phase, HIV will go into hiding, where it resides in various cells and tissues throughout the body in a dormant state known as latency. HIV latency can persist without symptoms for 10 years or more, although some people may experience signs within a year or two.
During the early chronic phase, lymphadenopathy may be the only notable sign of an HIV infection. In some cases, the glands may be visibly enlarged and reach up to an inch or more in size. If the condition persists for more than three months, its referred to as persistent generalized lymphadenopathy .
Even during latency, the virus will multiple imperceptibly and gradually deplete immune cells known as CD4 T-cells. As immune deficiency develops, a number of nonspecific symptoms are likely to appear, including:
- Oral candidiasis , a fungal infection that causes the formation of creamy, white lesions on the sides of the tongue and lining of the mouth
- Unexplained fevers and drenching night sweats that soak through bedsheets and nightclothes
- Severe, uncontrolled diarrhea that lasts for more than three days
Each of these symptoms is commonly seen in persons with immune deficiency. They may, in some cases, be caused by HIV itself or by an infection that has yet to be diagnosed.
How Much Do Hiv Tests Cost
Unlike rapid tests, blood tests for HIV are covered by Medicare, which means your doctor can order the test free of charge for you.
If you are not eligible for Medicare, you may also be able to claim some of the testing costs through private health insurance. Check with your provider to see if youre eligible.
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Who Needs Hiv Testing
The CDC advises that routine HIV testing should be provided in all healthcare settings, especially if testing for other sexually transmitted infections at the same time.
People engaging in behaviors that puts them at an increased risk for contracting HIV should be tested at least once a year.
Known risk factors include:
HIV testing is also recommended:
- before a person begins a new sexual relationship
- if a person learns that theyre pregnant
- if a person has symptoms of another sexually transmitted infection
An HIV infection is now considered a manageable health condition, especially if treatment is sought early.
If a person has contracted HIV, early detection and treatment can help:
- improve their frame of mind
- lower their risk of disease progression
- prevent the development of stage 3 HIV, or AIDS
It can also help reduce their risk of transmitting the virus to other people.
The life expectancy of people with an HIV diagnosis who start treatment early is the same as those without the virus. People who know that theyve been exposed to HIV should seek care as soon as possible.
In some cases, if theyre treated within 72 hours, their healthcare provider may prescribe post-exposure prophylaxis .
These emergency medications may help reduce their chances of contracting HIV after theyve been exposed to it.
Not all tests require a blood sample or a visit to a clinic.
This is because it generally takes 3 months for the body to produce a detectable number of antibodies.