Anonymous on November 23, 2011

When can I test for HIV?

How soon after sex can I test for HIV? Is there any reason to wait?

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on November 23, 2011

What a great question…while HIV testing is important, it’s also very useful to know when to test for HIV to get the most accurate results. 

Put simply, it’s a good idea to wait 3 weeks after unprotected sex before taking an HIV test...that’s the waiting period our medical experts suggest before you take the HIV Early Detection test which can detect HIV in a blood sample. This test is a good choice for people anxious about their STD status who don’t want to wait long after potential contact with HIV for test results. 

The other test we offer is the HIV Antibody test…with this test, it’s best to wait 4-6 weeks after a possible exposure to HIV. Just as the name states, the HIV Antibody test detects antibodies to HIV in the blood. But it takes a little time for enough antibodies to build up in the body so that they can be detected by the test. 

To be clear, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that most people will have detectable antibodies to HIV within 25 days, and 97% will have detectable antibodies after 3 months, but 4-6 weeks is a good guideline. 

If you have more questions about when to test for HIV and other STDs, you might find our Testing Windows Guide helpful. Or for more on our HIV tests check out our Expert Guide to HIV.

Thanks for your important question and I wish you the best of health.

Lisa Oldson, MD

Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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