HIV - Prevention Expert Forum
Testing Waiting Period
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This forum is limited to prevention of HIV and to safe sex in general. All questions will be answered by H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D. or Edward W Hook, MD.

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Testing Waiting Period

9 weeks ago I had anal sex with another male.  I was the receptive partner.  He removed his condom a couple minutes after penetration, unknown to me.

Listed below are the tests I have had so far:

At 11 days:  DNA PCR test = negative

At 4 weeks:  antibody test by blood at HIV clinic = negative
At 4 weeks:  antibody test by blood at my internist's = negative

At 5 weeks:  DNA PCR test = negative

At 6 weeks:  rapid oral antibody test at HIV clinic = negative

At 8 weeks:  antibody test by blood at my internist's = negative

How sure could I be at this point that I was not infected with HIV?  Do I still need to be tested again at 3 months?
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Welcome to the forum.  Sorry to hear about your disturbing exposure.  Did you ask your partner's HIV status?  Of course it would have been highly reassuring if he is known to be HIV negative.

But to the question at hand:  Your test results prove with 100% certainty that you did not acquire HIV.  Although 3 months is commonly cited as the interval for definitive testing, that figure applies only when antibody testing was the only kind of test available.

Now that multiple test technologies are available, the old 3 months advice is rarely appropriate.  Even with antibody-only testing, in fact 6-8 weeks generally is sufficient.  (Here is a thread that explains why official agencies often stick with 3 months:  http://www.medhelp.org/posts/HIV-Prevention/-A-Question-on-Testing/show/1347755  Read the follow-up comments, which contain the important take-home information.)  The fact is that the DNA PCR tests are almost 100% valid, all by themselves, within 10-14 days of exposure.  And the combination of negative DNA testing plus antibody testing, at 4 weeks or more, are absolute proof that a potentially exposed person was not infected.

In other words, you are home free.  For sure you didn't catch HIV during the exposure described.  No further testing is necessary, unless you remain nervous and would sleep better having a final 3 month antibody test.  I truly don't believe it is necessary, but some people do benefit from an extra test beyond the official window period.

I hope this helps.  Best wishes--  HHH, MD
2 Comments
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Thanks Dr. Handsfield.  I appreciate the information.

To answer your question: the guy I was with told me that he was HIV negative; however, I have reason to suspect that he didn't really know his status for sure.  But, nevertheless, I will take your advice about the validity of the tests I have already had.  Thanks!
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University of Washington
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