Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
For most HIV tests, a small amount of blood will be drawn from your arm and tested. In some cases, urine or saliva is used.
Most HIV tests detect antibodies to HIV in the blood, urine, or saliva. HIV antibodies are only present when the HIV has invaded the body. As the body's immune system fights the HIV virus, it creates antibodies to that virus to fight off the infection.
The time it takes to get your test results varies from 20 minutes to up to
one to two weeks. Now there are many free anonymous and confidential HIV testing sites sponsored by public health departments.
It takes time for the body to develop HIV antibodies after infection. The time it takes for a person who has been infected with HIV to test positive for HIV antibodies is called the "window period." This window period does not refer to the time it takes for symptoms of AIDS to begin. Symptoms may not develop for years after the exposure.
Almost all people infected with HIV will develop HIV antibodies in their bloodstream within
three to six months of their infection.
If you engaged in behavior that can transmit the virus during the six months prior to
ELISA HIV testing, you may have a false-negative test. In other words, your test may be reported to you as negative, but you may actually be infected because your body may not yet have produced enough antibodies to be detected by the test. To be sure, you must be retested at least
six months after you last engaged in behavior that can transmit HIV.
Currently, there is no FDA approved vaccine effective against HIV.