Are These Figures Always Accurate
In some situations, these figures should be interpreted with caution:
- When tests are done with samples of fingerprick blood or oral fluid , their window periods are likely to be longer.
- Individuals who are taking pre-exposure prophylaxis or post-exposure prophylaxis may have a delayed antibody response, extending the window period.
- The data are based on individuals with HIV-1 subtype B and its possible that tests are less sensitive to other subtypes.
British HIV Association, British Association for Sexual Health and HIV and British Infection Association. Adult HIV Testing Guidelines 2020.
Delaney KP et al. Time from HIV infection to earliest detection for 4 FDA-approved point-of-care tests. Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, abstract 565, 2018.
How Soon Can Hiv Be Detected By A Blood Test
The window period refers to the time between when a person is first exposed to HIV and when it will show up on different types of HIV tests.
The window period can last anywhere from 10 days to 3 months, depending on your bodys immune response and the type of test that youre taking.
During the window period, a person may test HIV-negative even though theyve contracted HIV.
A person can still transmit HIV to others during this period. In fact, transmission may even be more likely because there are higher levels of the virus in a persons body during the window period.
Here is a quick breakdown of different types of HIV tests and the window period for each.
What Is Being Tested
Human immunodeficiency virus is the virus that can cause acquired immunodeficiency syndrome . HIV screening tests detect the HIV antigen and/or HIV antibodies produced by the body in response to an HIV infection in the blood. Some tests detect HIV antibodies in saliva.
An HIV infection may initially cause no symptoms or cause flu-like symptoms that resolve after a week or two. The only way to determine whether you have been infected is through HIV testing.
If left untreated, an HIV infection can progressively destroy the body’s ability to fight infections and certain cancers. HIV weakens the immune system by infecting lymphocytes , a type of white blood cell, that normally help the body fight infections.
During the first few weeks following infection with HIV, the virus infects T-cells, making numerous copies of itself and continuing to infect more T-cells. The amount of virus and the p24 antigen level in blood can be quite high. HIV tests that detect the p24 antigen can generally identify infections in the first weeks after infection, even before antibodies develop.
About 2-8 weeks after exposure to the virus, the immune system responds by producing antibodies directed against the virus that can be detected in the blood. As the initial infection resolves and the level of HIV antibody increases, both virus and p24 antigen levels decrease in the blood. HIV tests that detect HIV antibodies can identify HIV infections about 2 to 8 weeks after infection.
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Im Pregnant When Should I Test
Testing for HIV during your pregnancy is very important. Left undiagnosed and untreated women living with HIV can pass the virus on to their unborn babies. In most countries, HIV tests are a routine part of the care women receive during pregnancy . Partners of pregnant women should also get tested during this time.
The earlier you test in your pregnancy the better. You’ll usually be tested in your first appointment, ideally before your tenth week. These tests should be repeated, either every three months or at least once again in your third trimester.
Your doctor will tell you everything you need to know about HIV testing alongside the other blood tests they do during pregnancy.
If you find out you are positive, youll be given treatment to prevent passing HIV on to your child. The earlier you start treatment, the greater the chance your child will be born HIV-negative. Check out our section on Pregnancy, childbirth & breastfeeding for more information.
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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Hiv: A Brief Overview
HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is a sexually transmitted virus that spreads through exposure to certain body fluidsâlike genital secretions or blood. HIV transmission can also occur from a mother to a child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.
HIV attacks and impairs the bodyâs immune cells, which weakens the immune system and can eventually progress to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome if it isnât treated. AIDS can be a life-threatening condition, particularly if HIV treatment is not initiated promptly, which is why HIV testing is crucial for protecting your health.
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Who Should Get Tested
The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested. CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. Knowing your HIV status gives you powerful information to help you take steps to keep you and your partner healthy. About 1 in 8 people in the United States who have HIV do not know they have it.
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Who Will Know The Results Of My Testing
It depends on where you get your testing. Testing sites have different privacy rules. Ask about privacy rules at your testing site so you understand whether anyone else will know you got tested or see your results.
If you go to an anonymous test site, only you know the results. No written record of the test result is kept.
If you go to a confidential test site, the results will go in your medical record. Positive results are sent to the state or local health department. Your insurance company will have access to your results. Depending on the state you live in, your parent or guardian may be contacted.
How An Hiv Rna Test Is Done
Since the HIV RNA test is a blood test, theres no special way to prepare for it. But some people find that being well hydrated before any type of blood test makes it easier for the technician to find a vein.
A technician will swab your arm with an antiseptic wipe or solution. Then, a blood sample will be drawn from a vein in your arm.
Based upon the lab used, it may take up to 10 days for you to get the results of your test.
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Early Signs And Symptoms Of Hiv
Some people experience flu-like symptoms at the start of an HIV infection. These early HIV symptoms usually develop within 2-4 weeks in an infected person and may last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. This early stage of the infection is known as an acute HIV infection.
Possible early symptoms include:
- Night sweats
- Mouth ulcers
Itâs worth keeping in mind that such early symptoms can also be caused by other health conditionsânot just HIV. In short, if youâre experiencing these symptoms, it doesnât necessarily mean that you have HIVâwhich is why STI testing and consulting with your healthcare provider can be helpful next steps to take.
Can Hiv Be Prevented
There is currently no vaccine to protect you against HIV, but avoiding high-risk activities such as having unprotected sex and sharing needles for injecting drugs can help to prevent its spread.
While there is no vaccine, the CDC and the World Health Organization recommend that individuals without HIV infection but at high risk for it consider taking pre-exposure prophylaxis , a daily pill to help prevent infection. For people taking PrEP consistently, the risk of HIV infection was significantly lower compared to those who didn’t take it.
If you have HIV, early diagnosis of your infection is important to prevent its transmission to others and to allow evaluation, monitoring, and treatment. Healthcare workers can protect themselves from HIV infection by following universal precautions, such as wearing gloves and avoiding needle sticks.
Post-exposure prophylaxis is another strategy for preventing HIV. PEP is taking antiretroviral medication after recent possible exposure to the virus. PEP should only be used in emergency situations and must be taken within 72 hours of possible HIV exposure. Talk to your healthcare practitioner or emergency department doctor about PEP right away if you:
- Think you have may been exposed through sex
- Think you were exposed through sharing needles or other works for injecting drugs
- Were sexually assaulted
- Are a healthcare worker and think you were exposed to HIV at work
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How Can Testing Help You
The only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested.
Knowing your HIV status gives you powerful information to help you take steps to keep you and your partner healthy.
- If you test positive, you can take medicine to treat HIV . People with HIV who take HIV medicine as prescribed can live long and healthy lives. Theres also an important prevention benefit. If you take HIV medicine daily as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load, you have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex.
- If you test negative, you have more prevention tools available today to prevent HIV than ever before.
- If you are pregnant, you should be tested for HIV so that you can begin treatment if you’re HIV-positive. If an HIV-positive woman is treated for HIV early in her pregnancy, the risk of transmitting HIV to her baby can be very low.
Getting A Result Quickly
Many services offer rapid testing, which means a finger-prick test that will give you a result within minutes.
A self testing kit ordered online and done at home will normally give you a result up to 15 minutes, depending on the kit.
A blood sample taken at a testing centre will be sent to a lab, with results ready within a day or up to a week later.
If you use postal testing, the lab will normally contact you a week or so later with your result.
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Where Can You Get Tested For Hiv
Many places offer HIV testing, including your healthcare providers office, hospitals, community health centers or clinics, local health departments, and substance abuse clinics. Many pharmacies also offer testing.
Under the Affordable Care Act, HIV testing is covered by health insurance without a copay. If youre uninsured, check the CDCs HIV service locator to find free or low-cost testing options.
- Rapid Self-Test This is done completely at home and can provide results within 20 minutes. The only rapid self-test currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration is OraQuick, an oral fluid test.
- Mail-In Self-Test With this finger-stick test, you send your sample to a lab and test results are given to you by a healthcare provider.
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.
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Should You Consider Preventive Medication
How quickly a person is able to see a healthcare professional after exposure to HIV can significantly affect their chances of contracting the virus.
If you believe youve been exposed to HIV, or have a high risk of being exposed to HIV, visit a healthcare professional within 72 hours. You may be offered an antiretroviral treatment called post-exposure prophylaxis , which can reduce your risk of contracting HIV. PEP is typically taken once or twice daily for 28 days.
PEP has little or no effect if taken more than
What Does A Reactive Test Result Mean
A reactive test result is a possible positive result, but means that you will need to go back to test again to confirm this. The healthcare worker will talk you through everything you need to know and help you with any worries that you may have.
You will need to give blood sample, which will then be sent to the lab for testing. At this stage, it’s very important to follow the advice of the healthcare professional.
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Where Can Someone Get Tested For Hiv
Your health care provider can give you an HIV test. HIV testing is also available at many hospitals, medical clinics, substance use programs, and community health centers. Use CDC’s GetTested treatment locator to find an HIV testing location near you. Getting tested through a professional health care provider is recommended however, there are HIV self-testing kits available. Rapid self-test and mail-in self-test are the two types of HIV self-tests, but state laws regarding self-testing may limit their availability in a location.
A rapid self-test is an oral fluid test done entirely at home or in private. There is currently one U.S. Food and Drug Administration -approved rapid self-test called OraQuick In-Home HIV test. A mail-in self-test requires a person to provide a blood sample from a fingerstick, which is then sent to a lab for testing.
Hiv Is Detected With A Blood Test
Blood tests are the most common and reliable tests for HIV. The virus is detected by taking a sample of your blood either with a conventional blood test or a rapid test .There is a short period of time between exposure to HIV and the ability for tests to detect HIV or its antibodies. This is often referred to as the ‘window period’ between 2 and 12 weeks.
Most tests used in Australia can detect HIV as early as 2 to 4 weeks after infection.
If your blood test shows that HIV or its antibodies are present, you are HIV-positive.
If you have no antibodies in your blood you are HIV-negative. Sometimes negative results might also mean you are in the window period, so you might need a follow-up blood test to make sure.
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Should I Get Tested For Hiv
According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, get tested for HIV if you are:1
- Older than 15. All women and girls older than 15 need to be tested at least once.
- Pregnant. Every pregnant woman should have an HIV test as early as possible in the pregnancy. You need to get tested even if you have been tested before. Also, consider getting tested for HIV if you plan to get pregnant.
Some women with HIV don’t know they have it, because HIV may not cause symptoms for several years. Even if HIV causes no symptoms, it is still causing problems with your body’s immune system that need to be treated as soon as possible.
Some women who test negative assume their partners must be HIV-negative too. But your HIV test reveals only your status, not your partner’s.
Hiv Stigma And Discrimination
HIV can prompt intense feelings in people, regardless of their HIV status. It is sometimes viewed with a sense of unacceptability or disgrace. A person with HIV may feel shame and despair about their status. An HIV-negative person may be fearful or angry when they discover someone has HIV. The relationship of these feelings to HIV is referred to as stigma.Felt stigma refers to deep feelings of shame and self-loathing, and the expectation of discrimination. It can have serious negative impacts on the health and wellbeing of people living with HIV by discouraging them from getting tested, receiving support, or taking treatment. It may also lead people to engage in high-risk behaviours that harm their health, and contribute to new HIV infections.Enacted stigma is the experience of unfair treatment by others. For people living with HIV this can be in the form of being treated differently and poorly, or through rejection, abuse, or discrimination.HIV stigma is particularly harmful when it overlaps with other factors that are stigmatised such as if a person uses drugs, is a sex worker, is trans or gender diverse.Breaking down stigma is a community response where:
If you have experienced stigma or discrimination from a health care provider, and are unable to resolve your complaint with them directly, contact the Health Complaints Commissioner
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What Else Do I Need To Know About Hiv Testing
The world has come a long way from when the AIDS epidemic hit in the late 1980s. Researchers are working tirelessly to find treatments.
Unfortunately, many people still dont understand much about HIV. Because of this, legislation exists to protect people living with HIV and AIDS. The Americans with Disabilities Act protects people with HIV from discrimination. If you believe someone has discriminated against you because of your HIV status, you may wish to consult legal counsel.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Research has made significant progress in terms of what we know about HIV. But there is still more to learn. Until researchers find a vaccine, HIV will continue to infect people. If you or someone you love may be HIV positive, please seek help. Current treatments can help HIV-positive people live happy, productive lives.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/09/2016.