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When can I get tested for HIV?

People who’ve been exposed to HIV through unprotected oral, anal or vaginal sex or sharing needles need to wait eight weeks to six months after exposure before they can take an HIV test. This period of time is called a “window period.” This time is necessary because the test looks for the body’s reaction to the virus (antibodies) rather than for the virus itself and that reaction doesn’t show up right away—it can take months. The majority of people will produce enough antibodies by eight weeks, but in rare cases it can take up to six months. If someone gets tested too early, they might not realize that HIV is present in their blood and they are still able to pass the virus to others.

Testing for HIV is done either with blood test or a swab of cells from inside the mouth. HIV testing can be done anonymously (meaning you don’t give your name or any information that could be used to identify you) or confidentially (meaning test results are private and can’t be released to anyone else).

You can get tested for HIV through your private doctor, a clinic or by buying an HIV test kit through the Internet. However, we highly recommend seeing a health care provider, whether at a doctor’s office or a clinic, for HIV testing. Just in case you test positive, it is much better to have some support from someone who is knowledgeable about it.

For more information, check out the following sites:

Want to get tested for HIV? Find a clinic near you.

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