An untreated HIV infection takes a long time to become noticeable (sometimes up to 10 years
without symptoms) the only way to be certain of your HIV status is to be tested.
People who are on PrEP are tested every 3 months; however, if a person is not on PrEP, a good testing timeline is to be tested
3 weeks after a possible exposure with follow-up testing 6 weeks after the 3rd week test and final confirmatory testing at 12 weeks (3 months).
People at higher risk but who have not knowingly engaged in higher-risk activities should also consider testing annually.
HIV tests can detect an HIV infection as early as three weeks after exposure; however, it can take up to 12 weeks for the test to be able to detect the infection. This is because HIV tests react to the antibodies a person’s body produces in response to an HIV infection, rather than testing for the virus itself. Different bodies take different amounts of time to produce enough antibodies to be detected by a test. This is called the ‘window period,’ during this period of time a person could be HIV-positive but a test may still come back negative.
A standard HIV test is when blood is drawn and sent to a lab for analysis. Rapid HIV testing is also available either through local Public Health units or through at-home tests available through pharmacies or via a program such as GetaKit. Rapid tests are very accurate but are not considered conclusive and so if a rapid test is ‘reactive,’ a follow-up standard test is required to confirm the result.
Many testing options include the option to remain anonymous, whereby a person’s case is assigned a number and no identifying information is taken; only that person is aware of the test’s results or that a test was done at all.