Time it Takes to Test Positive
How long it takes to test positive after getting infected with HIV depends upon which test is used. We break it down for you.
How soon can HIV be detected by a test? Well, because there are two ways to test for HIV -- antibody testing and RNA testing -- there are two answers to this common question. The time between infection and when a test can detect the infection is called the 'window period.'
These tests look for antibodies to HIV, not the virus itself. It takes about one month, sometimes up to three months, after infection for your body to produce enough antibodies to show up on a test. These are the most common type of test. All rapid tests are antibody tests. Here's the window period for these tests:
- Most people develop detectable antibodies within 2-8 weeks
- 25 days is the average time it takes to develop detectable antibodies
- 97% of people develop detectable antibodies within 3 months
- In very rare cases, it can take up to 6 months to develop antibodies
STOP AIDS does rapid antibody tests all over San Francisco -- find out where we'll be this month.
Unlike antibody tests, RNA tests can detect the presence of the virus itself. They look for HIV's genetic material -- its RNA -- which can be detected much sooner than antibodies. The window period for RNA test detection is 9–11 days.
RNA tests are done from blood samples and it usually takes two weeks for the lab to process the test. However, if you are experiencing some of the classic symptoms of seroconversion (or becoming HIV positive), doctors are often able to arrange to get the results much faster.
RNA tests are more costly and used less often than antibody tests; however, they are used in some parts of the United States. Happily, they are offered here in San Francisco.