Question: Hey Doc. I’m living a stressful life as well anxiety is killing me every day. I slept with this guy since 2016 and I don’t know his HIV status. So, I heard he was dating a girl living with HIV. I confronted him and asked him whether he’s HIV+ or not .So, he said NO, and last year I even found an HIV self-test in his room but never asked him anything about it. So now that we broke and lost our child, I’m living a stressful life. I’ve tested Negative ever since 2017 up until this year Jan. I really need your advice DOC. Coz anxiety is killing me and this guy, I know for sure he’s HIV positive.
A: Thanks for writing in.
It is not clear to me whether you are still having sexual relations with him or not. If you have tested negative for six months after exposure, then you may not need to worry especially if you have been tested in a proper laboratory and if you have not engaged in any risky behavior since then. However, if you have continued to have sexual relations with him or have exposed yourself to risky sexual behavior, my first advice would be to get tested immediately. Post exposure prophylaxis may be recommended by your doctor. These drugs used to treat HIV are usually taken daily for about 4 weeks to reduce chances of becoming HIV positive.
Having said that, the length of time before a subject tests positive to HIV following exposure (sero-conversion), known as the window period would depend on the type of test done.
An antibody test can read positive from 3 to 12 weeks, if there is sero-conversion. An antibody is a disease-fighting protein produced by the body in response to an infection (HIV infection, in this case).
A combination antibody/antigen test (which detects both antibody and antigen…which is a part of the virus) can read positive from 2 to 6 weeks after exposure, if there is sero-conversion.
A Nucelic Acid Test (NAT) can detect HIV infection in the blood from 7 to 28 days following infection.
Generally, if the initial test is negative, a repeat test is done 3 months after the exposure to ‘close the window’. Some may stretch this to a further screen after 6 months. Be guided by your doctor.
All the best!