How Long Can HIV Go Undetected?

In most parts of the world, being diagnosed with immunodeficiency virus or HIV is still considered a death sentence, but that is not really the case in developed countries. With the availability of new resources, it is now possible to manage HIV in a much better way. However, millions of people still do not have access to those resources and many of them die because of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which is the last stage of the infection caused by HIV. Statistics have found that more than 11 million Americans, older than 13, had HIV at the end of 2014. The numbers are not accurate because many people never realize that they are infected. This makes people wonder how long HIV can go undetected.


How Long Can HIV Go Undetected?

AIDS is the final stage of the HIV infection, but it may take more than 10 years for an infected person to have AIDS. At this stage, your immune system becomes so weak to protect you from common infections that healthy people do not get.

After contracting the virus, it takes up to 4-10 weeks to detect it in the blood. Sometimes, it takes longer to get detected through blood tests. Most people do not experience any symptoms when they first become infected. Some people may complain about problems like a headache, fever, general muscle aches, sore throat, diarrhea, or weight loss. These symptoms indicate that your body is trying to fight the infection by making specific antibodies. Most HIV tests look for these antibodies to confirm if a person has contracted the virus or not.

When and Who Should Get Tested?

The CDC recommends that anyone between ages 13 and 64 should have them tested for the infection. It is important to undergo a repeat test if you have changed your sexual partner. In most cases, you should have your HIV test after 3 months of engaging in sexual activity with a new partner. Some people are at high risk for contracting the virus – this is true for IV drug users, homosexual males, and those who change sex partners often. For them, it is important to go for HIV testing every 6-12 months.

Your body may have enough antibodies after 3 months of becoming infected – some people may have those antibodies within 20 days of becoming infected. Therefore, it is a good idea to go for testing every six months, especially if you have had unprotected oral, anal, or vaginal sex with a different partner during this time. To get tested, you can go to your local health department, doctor's office, or hospital. Nowadays, special sites are set up to help you with HIV testing – these testing sites keep your data private and share it only with medical experts authorized to see your record.

Risk of HIV

It is worth mentioning that certain factors put you at an increased risk of becoming infected. For instance, you are likely to contract the HIV virus if:

  • You have anal or vaginal sex with someone who is already infected.
  • You have sex with a person whose HIV status is not known.
  • You inject drugs or share syringe or needles with others.
  • You exchange sex for drugs or money.
  • You already have a sexually transmitted disease.
  • You have tuberculosis or hepatitis.

You should talk to your healthcare provider to get more information regarding how long can HIV go undetected and how often you should go for HIV testing.

Types of HIV Tests

It is a good idea to go for HIV testing regularly, but you should pick a place where they also offer counseling regarding HIV and AIDs. It will help you manage your condition better and teach you how to protect others from becoming infected. It is also important to learn about different types of HIV tests available today.

Mainly, there are three different types of HIV tests, and each one of them has a different detection window. Here is more about these tests:

  • Antibody Tests: These tests look for HIV antibodies in your blood or bodily fluids. Your body releases antibodies to help fight the HIV infection. Your body may take around 3-12 weeks to produce enough antibodies to be detectable through blood tests. The window period for antibody tests is therefore somewhere between 3 and 12 weeks.
  • Combination Tests: The tests look for both antibodies and antigens in your blood. Your body may take 2-6 weeks to produce enough antigens to be detected through a blood test. These tests have become quite popular in the United States.
  • NATs: These tests look for HIV infection in the blood and are capable of detecting the infection about 7-28 days after becoming infected. These tests are quite accurate, but they are not generally ordered because of their high cost.

Some HIV Facts You Must Know

How long can HIV go undetected? It is a common question, but people have other concern and questions regarding HIV and AIDs. For instance:

1. Is it possible for tops to get HIV?

The term 'tops' refers to the insertive partner in anal sex. Some people believe that male tops are at a lowered risk of getting HIV. A study has confirmed it, stating that tops have 86% reduction in their risk of contracting the infection.

2. Do you have AIDS when you are tested HIV positive?

No, you do not. Millions of people infected with HIV never develop AIDS, which is the last stage of HIV disease. You can avoid having AIDS through regular medical care and proper treatment to strengthen your immune system.

3. Will you die because of HIV?

No, you will not – at least not anytime soon. Yes, there will be complications, but that is true for any chronic condition. With modern-day medications and resources, people with HIV can hope to live a near-normal lifespan. You may be at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis and other age-related conditions early, but you can certainly improve the quality of your life through proper medical care.

4. How you can and cannot get HIV?

The HIV cannot survive outside the body, so you are not going to get it by sharing utensils. You cannot get it even when you kiss someone who is infected mainly because it does not transmit in your saliva. You do not get it through your exposure to urine and sweat of an infected person. Exposure to only four bodily fluids increases your risk of HIV: semen, blood, breast milk, and vaginal fluids.

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