How long after a possible exposure should I be tested for HIV?

If you think you have been exposed to HIV, please find a place to get a free, confidential HIV test. It may be appropriate for you to start medication immediately (learn more about Post-Exposure Prophylaxis). A trained test counselor will help assess your risk and figure out the right time and type of test to apply.


The time it takes for a person who has been infected with HIV to show a positive test result (also known as seroconverting) is commonly called the "window period". There are different types of HIV Tests, and each type has a different window period. We have a more in depth article about HIV test window periods.

A test taken at least 12 weeks (3 months) after exposure to the virus provides highly accurate results. In rare cases, a person could take up to six months to test positive using standard tests, and that is almost always a person with a severely compromised immune system due to another disease, such as leukemia.

What does this mean for you?

Any time that you have reason to think you've been directly exposed to HIV, you should consult with your doctor or a trained HIV test counselor. The sooner you address the possibility of being infected, the better for you and your future sexual partners.

If you test negative on an antibody test taken 3 months or longer after your last possible risk of possible exposure to HIV, you can feel safe in assuming that you do not have the virus. If for some reason you feel anxiety about relying on the 3-month result, you could opt to have another test taken again at 6 months.

For this reason, we recommend that people who are having sex get tested routinely every 3 months. Routine testing is painless and ensures that if you do get infected, you will begin getting treatment quickly. See our article on BETA Blog explaining the importance of starting treatment as early as possible.


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