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"After 8 weeks, HIV test was negative. Can I still have HIV?"
Hello Doctor, I have bipolar so was engaged in sexual activity some time ago. SInce my last sexual activity it was 8 weeks at which point I had a test for HIV and it was found to be negative. How confident can I be that I do not have HIV? It's hard to live every day because I am scared I may have it. My doctor said I need to re-check at 6 months and I get that, but can you tell me the chance that I do/don't have HIV based on being negative at 8 weeks so I can be consoled a bit?
There are several ways of detecting HIV, and I strongly recommend that you discuss this with your doctor. Most standard rapid HIV tests are what we call antibody tests. Antibodies are molecules that your body's immune system makes against the foreign HIV virus. It can take some time (on the order of days to weeks) for your body to produce these molecules, which can cause the delay between the time of infection and the time the test turns positive. The likelihood of the test detecting low amounts of antibody also depends on the sensitivity of the test, which can depend on the specific test that your doctor's clinic uses. That being said, most tests will be able to detect antibody by 8 weeks so if your test is negative that's a very good sign. Another way to test for HIV at an earlier stage is to check a viral load. Not all clinics will have this option, but a viral load directly detects the HIV virus rather than your body's response, and should turn positive sooner. If you are really worried you could discuss the possibility of checking a viral load with your doctor. Signs of an early HIV infection to watch out for include fevers/chills, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes in your neck, muscle or joint aches, headache, and overall feeling unwell and run down. Some people will develop a rash or ulcers of their mouth or genitals. If you have any concerns about this or questions I would strongly recommend you bring this up with your doctor, and as always try to use protection whenever having sexual intercourse.
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