Thursday, February 3, 2011

HIV Testing Timeline: How soon you should get HIV test?


I see that a lot of people are interested in knowing HIV testing timeline, and how soon they should get HIV test after an exposure. I can understand their feelings and frustrations during the window period that they had to wait before going for HIV testing.

Currently, we have many HIV tests available for commercial purpose, good news is that all of them are highly sensitive and specific for HIV. You can expect their sensitivity as high as 99.99%. Just for your information, the standardized lab based HIV testing is ELISA and western blot. As per the protocol those who test positive in ELISA HIV testing, they undergo a confirmatory test (western blot) before making a final conclusion. For those who test negative in ELISA or any other HIV test, they are not required to go for western blot HIV testing.

As far as the HIV testing timeline is concerned, there is a window period that you need to wait before going for HIV testing. This is the time taken by your body for seroconversion; in majority of the cases, infected person will test positive by 4 weeks, however in small number of cases it may take up to 12 weeks. Rarely the window period may extend up to 24 weeks. Thus, as per the current guidelines, recommended timeline for HIV testing is 4, 12, and 24 weeks after exposure. There is no documented data suggesting that a person could take longer than 6 months for seroconversion.

Thus, if you had any risky exposure and you want to know your HIV status, please wait for 4 weeks before going for HIV testing. If you decide to do HIV test early, it will increase the chance of false negative report which you don't want to have one. If you test negative at 4 weeks, you should go for retesting at 12 & 24 weeks to be 100% sure. You can read more about HIV testing from this link, click here.
If you want to know more about HIV, please read my previous post on Can you transmit HIV by kissing?

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