When Do Symptoms Occur
Some people have flu-like symptoms within two to four weeks after infection, but others may not feel sick or not develop symptoms at all until later.
See a healthcare provider if you have symptoms of HIV and think you may have been exposed to HIV. Getting tested for HIV is the only way to know for sure.
In the United States, HIV is spread mainly through having anal or vaginal sex or sharing needles or syringes with an HIV-positive partner. Anal sex is the highest-risk behavior.
You can prevent HIV by using condoms correctly every time you have sex pre-exposure prophylaxis, a prevention method in which the HIV-negative partner takes daily HIV medicine to prevent HIV and treatment as prevention, a method in which the HIV-positive partner takes daily HIV medicine to achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load.
Only antigen/antibody tests or nucleic acid tests can diagnose acute HIV infection. NATs look for actual virus in the blood, and antigen/antibody tests look for HIV antibodies and antigens. Antibodies are produced by your immune system when youre exposed to viruses like HIV, and antigens are foreign substances that cause your immune system to activate.
However, no test can detect HIV immediately after infection. NATs can usually tell if you have an HIV infection 10 to 33 days after exposure, while antigen/antibody tests can tell 18 to 45 days after exposure.
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Mouth ulcers or sores
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 Happens If My Test Is Positive
If you test positive for HIV, it is important to remember that with treatment you can live a long, healthy life. In fact, with early treatment, people with HIV can live about as long as people that are not infected.
A team approach will help you get the medical care and support that you need. Start by talking to your doctor or the counselor or social worker at the testing site. He or she can help you with suggestions on how to talk to your parents or guardians and how to find a health care provider who’s an HIV specialist. By starting treatment as soon as possible, you can stay healthy and learn to live well with HIV.
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Getting Tested For Hiv
THE IMPORTANCE OF TESTING
Sex without the use of an effective HIV prevention tool or sharing injecting equipment are all activities that can put you at risk of HIV by allowing bodily fluids or vaginal fluid) to enter your body, and possibly your bloodstream.
The only way to know your HIV status is through testing. Testing for HIV is important because it enables the individual to know their status, seek treatment and support if necessary and take steps to prevent onward transmission.
Being tested regularly for HIV is simple, quick and made convenient with multiple testing sites in major cities and towns across Australia. Testing is also available through general practitioners.
There are also a number of community-based testing services around the country, including those that are led by peers.
REGULARITY IS KEY
Gay men and other men who have sex with men are recommended to have a comprehensive sexual health check at least twice a year, and up to four times a year if they are in one or more of these categories:
- have had any condomless anal sex
- have more than 10 sexual partners in 6 months
- participate in group sex
- use crystal meth.
UNDERSTANDING HIV RAPID TESTING
Traditional HIV testing, where blood is drawn and sent to the laboratory for testing can take several days or more to get a result. Rapid Testing uses a pinprick of the finger and returns results within 10 to 20 minutes.
WHERE TO TEST
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
Side Effects Of Hiv Treatment
People on current HIV treatments may experience mild side effects including:
- tiredness and fatigue
- skin rashes.
If you are on treatment, see your doctor every 3 to 6 months.
Regular blood tests are necessary to make sure your treatment is working and not causing serious side effects. It is recommended that you also get tested for STIs and talk to your doctor about your sexual health and overall wellbeing. Ensure you are having routine screening for cancers and keeping your vaccinations up to date.
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What To Expect Next
If you find out you are HIV-positive, its important to keep in mind the condition is treatable. Antiretroviral therapy is recommended for all people with HIV, regardless of how long theyve had the virus or how healthy they are. It works by lowering the amount of virus in the body to very low levels. This treatment can also slow the progression of the infection and protect the immune system.
Taking ART medications is vital to slowing the progression of HIV. Left untreated, HIV will progress to the second stage. During this stage, people may experience no symptoms at all. If no treatment is administered, an individual can stay in this stage for 10 to 15 years.
For people who have no symptoms of an acute HIV infection, it takes an average of seven years to proceed to AIDS.
How Long Are The Window Periods Of Different Hiv Tests
It is hard to say exactly how long the window period lasts, as there are variations between individuals and it is a difficult topic to research .
Nonetheless, a study by Dr Kevin Delaney and colleagues calculated window periods for a range of HIV testing assays. All these analyses were based on plasma samples. Window periods are likely to be several days longer when testing samples of fingerprick blood or of oral fluid, as will be normal when using rapid, point-of-care tests and self-testing devices. Unfortunately, precise figures for how much longer the window periods are have not yet been published.
The researchers analysis confirms that fourth-generation laboratory tests detect HIV infections between one and three weeks earlier than older antibody-only tests. Moreover, their data suggest that some countries guidelines which recommend retesting 90 days after a possible exposure to HIV are more cautious than they need to be.
Afourth-generation laboratory testis recommended in UK and US guidelines. It uses a sample of blood plasma or serum and can detect immunoglobulin G antibodies, immunoglobulin M antibodies and p24 viral antigen . Commonly used tests of this type include Abbott Architect HIV Ag/Ab, GS Combo Ag/Ab EIA and Siemens Combo HIV Ag-Ab.
- The median window period is 18 days . This indicates that half of all infections would be detected between 13 and 24 days after exposure.
- 99% of HIV-infected individuals would be detectable within 44 days of exposure.
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The Healthcare Worker There To Help You
Before you test, your healthcare worker will talk to you about your sexual health and why youve decided to test. This is to help them understand your situation so they can offer you the best services and advice.
Remember, the healthcare professional is not there to judge you. There will be nothing you can say that they havent heard before so be honest with them, and ask as many questions as you want. Thats what theyre there for.
You should never feel pressured to test. The results will be completely confidential but you should only go through with it if you want to.
Where To Get Tested For Hiv
Getting an HIV test is easy. Tests for HIV and other STIs are confidential and available from your local doctor , or a sexual and reproductive health clinic.
It is a good idea to have some pre-test counselling. Before the test, talk with your doctor, nurse, or peer tester about any concerns, your level of risk, whether you are likely to be HIV-positive and what a positive result may mean.
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Which Test Can Give Me Results The Soonest
The period of time also differs, depending on which kind of test you take. The different types of tests include:
- Antibody tests, which look for the antibodies — special proteins that help fight infection — that your body makes in reaction to an HIV infection. Most rapid tests and at-home tests are these kind. Antibody tests require the longest wait time after infection to get an accurate result. For most people — around 97% — this takes anywhere from 2 to 12 weeks. For some, it can take as long as 6 months.
- Combination or fourth-generation tests, which look for both antibodies and antigens. Antigens are part of the virus itself. One antigen, p24, is detectable before your body starts making antibodies. These tests are becoming more common in the U.S. They can tell you if you have HIV a little sooner than an antibody test can.
- Nucleic acid tests , which can detect HIV in your body the soonest after infection. The test looks for the virus in your blood. You need a certain amount of the virus in your blood before the test will detect it. This is called your viral load. You can get a negative test if your viral load is still low. A NAT can tell you if you have HIV as early as 7 to 28 days after infection. It gives the quickest result, but itâs also the most expensive. Doctors donât typically use it unless youâre at a high risk of exposure to HIV.
Youâre more likely to have a NAT if you:
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.
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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.
What About False Results
Some HIV tests have a very slight chance of giving you false results. A âfalse-positiveâ result means your test shows you have HIV when you donât. Tests may also give you a âfalse-negativeâ result. That means the test says you donât have HIV, but you do.
The rapid oral fluid test is more likely to give you a false-positive result than other tests. If you take a rapid oral test and get a positive result, the doctor will give you a blood test to confirm your diagnosis.
The HIV RNA or viral load test is not generally used to diagnose HIV. If you have this test done and get a positive result, the doctor may start you on HIV treatment, but you should always take an antibody test a few months later to confirm your diagnosis.
If you test positive: These tests are all screening tests for HIV. That means that if you take an HIV test and get a positive or even an unclear result, youâll need another blood test to confirm that you do or donât have the virus. The results of both tests together are more than 99% accurate. The tests used to confirm HIV infection are either the Western blot or indirect fluorescent antibody test. If your screening test went to a laboratory, they can do this additional testing on the same blood sample. But if you were tested in a community clinic or at home, youâll need to give an additional blood sample for follow-up.
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Should Pregnant Women Get Tested For Hiv
CDC recommends that all pregnant women get tested for HIV so that they can begin taking HIV medicines if they are HIV positive. Women with HIV take HIV medicines during pregnancy and childbirth to reduce the risk of perinatal transmission of HIV and to protect their own health. For more information, read the HIVinfo fact sheet on Preventing Perinatal Transmission of HIV.
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.
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When Should You Get Tested For Hiv After Condomless Sex
Keep in mind, if you believe youve been exposed to HIV, its important to see a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
Theres no HIV test that can accurately detect HIV in the body immediately after exposure. Theres a time frame known as the window period before you can be tested for HIV and receive accurate results.
Regardless of the type of test you take after a potential HIV exposure, you should get tested again after the window period has passed to be certain.
People at higher risk of contracting HIV should get regularly tested as often as every 3 months.
Is Hiv Testing Confidential
HIV testing can be confidential or anonymous.
Confidential testing means that your HIV test results will include your name and other identifying information, and the results will be included in your medical record. HIV-positive test results will be reported to local or state health departments to be counted in statistical reports. Health departments remove all personal information from HIV test results before sharing the information with CDC. CDC uses this information for reporting purposes and does not share this information with any other organizations, including insurance companies.
Anonymous testing means you do not have to give your name when you take an HIV test. When you take the test, you receive a number. To get your HIV test results, you give the number instead of your name.
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Should I Wait To Take An Hiv Test
If you think youve been exposed to HIV, seek medical advice as soon as you can. The doctor or nurse you speak to will be able to advise you about when and how to get tested, so it wont have to be a decision you make on your own.
In some cases, it might be appropriate to get tested more than once. You may be advised to take an early test, and then a second test over 45 days later after the potential exposure.
An early test may show a positive or a negative result, and require confirmation from a second.
How Do Hiv Tests Work
There are two basic ways to get HIV test results:
Laboratory tests. For these tests, a technician will take a sample of your blood and test it. Youâll get results within a few days.
Rapid tests. These tests provide results in around 20 minutes. You can get them done in a community clinic or take them at home.
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