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After how long should I re-test for HIV?

At the beginning of the year, Michael worried he may been exposed to HIV by a new girl he met at the club over the weekend. After two weeks, he went to the clinic and got a rapid antigen/antibody test. The doctor, however, advised him that it is advisable to get another test after the window period.

This window period is the time between HIV exposure and when a test can detect HIV. The window period depends on the test used. For the antigen/antibody test, the window period is 18 to 90 days: Michael was thus advised to retest after 90 days for more reliable results.

The doctor told him that the wait would give the virus enough time to multiply and show up in the blood.

Timely testing is important for early detection, ensuring appropriate medical intervention, and peace of mind for those concerned about potential HIV exposure.

Depending on your level of risk, your doctor will advice if you need to be put under Post Exposure Prophylaxes (PrEP). Here’s All you need to know about PrEP.

Several HIV testing methods have different window periods:

  • Antibody lab tests (done with a small blood sample from the vein): window period 18-45 days
  • Nucleic acid tests (NAT) detect the virus’s genetic material: Window periods 10-33 days.
  • Point-of-care tests done by swabbing inside of a patient mouth with a stick: Window period: 90 days

Related: Types of HIV Tests

At-home HIV tests offer privacy and convenience, allowing individuals to self-test for HIV using a saliva or blood sample. These tests typically provide results within minutes. However, it is advisable to confirm positive results should be confirmed by a healthcare professional. At-home testing facilitates early detection, contributing to effective HIV management and prevention efforts. It is important to note that a negative HIV result does not mean that one is negative of all other STIs.

Regular testing, tailored to individual risk factors, ensures timely diagnosis and effective HIV management, contributing to public health efforts in preventing transmission and promoting overall well-being.

The Center for Disease and Control (CDC) recommends taking a test at least once a year if you have engaged in any activities that can expose you to HIV.

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