The Body: The Complete HIV/AIDS Resource
Follow Us Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on Twitter Download Our App 
Professionals >> Visit The Body PROThe Body en Espanol
Ask the Experts About

Safe Sex and HIV PreventionSafe Sex and HIV Prevention
Rollover images to visit our other forums!
Recent AnswersAsk a Question
  • Email Email
  • Glossary Glossary

message for mr.kull

Feb 16, 2001

Here is an article from an agency of NYC all the supported evidence is also listed so please post this for all you worried wells with OCD I'm one of them. Thanks for keeping us so informed on this great site!

Definition of HIV "Window Period" Has Changed Based upon a clearer understanding of current scientific and clinical data, the Departments of Health (DOH) for the State and New York City have determined that the "window period" for HIV infection probably does not exceed one month in most cases. Therefore, it is now recommended that after exposure, the re-test should be at three months, rather than six months. This change will increase the likelihood for earlier treatment to begin. Please see the below DOH memorandum for complete information. If you have questions, contact Nursing Practice and Services Program at extension 282. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Update on the Window Period for HIV Infection New York State and New York City Joint Recommendations for HIV Testing and Re-testing What is the Window Period? The window period is the length of time after infection that it takes for a person to develop enough specific antibodies to be detected by our current testing methods. If an individual engages in unsafe sex or shares drug injection equipment and becomes infected, the body will make antibodies to fight HIV. When enough antibodies are developed, the HIV antibody test will come back positive. Each persons body responds to HIV infection a little differently, so the window period varies slightly from person to person. HIV is most commonly diagnosed in adolescents and adults through HIV antibody testing. However, there are also tests that diagnose HIV infection by detecting certain parts of the genetic material of HIV. PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests are used to diagnose HIV infection in infants. Viral culture may also be performed in certain circumstances to diagnose HIV. How Has Our Understanding of the Window Period Changed Over the Years? Early in the epidemic, our testing methods were not as sensitive as they are today. Doctors and public health officials wanted to make sure that people who engaged in risk behaviors for HIV were tested long enough after their risk to be sure that anyone who was actually infected would test positive. The Centers for Disease Control currently states that people with possible exposure to HIV, who test negative, should be re-tested six months after the possible exposure to ensure that sufficient time has elapsed to make antibodies. However, as early as 1990, the Association of State and Territorial Public Health Laboratory Directors reached a consensus recommendation that virtually all seroconversions are complete within twelve weeks of exposure. Improvements in HIV testing technology over the last fifteen years, increasing laboratory experience with testing and the ability to better monitor early infection through PCR testing have contributed greatly to our understanding of the window period and have provided increased confidence that virtually all cases of HIV infection can be detected by three months. What is the best time for the first HIV test after a possible exposure to HIV? Most people infected with HIV will develop enough antibodies to be detected by our current HIV antibody tests four weeks after the exposure. This means that, for example, if a person had unsafe sex and became infected on January 1, it is likely that he/she will have enough antibodies to test positive four weeks later. If the person tests positive, this early testing is beneficial because the person can begin receiving medical care very early in the course of the infection. Recent advances in care and treatment for HIV infection have increased the advantages of early identification and treatment. Therefore, especially when HIV infection is highly suspected, it is often beneficial for the first HIV test to take place four weeks after an exposure. In cases of occupational exposure or exposure through sexual assault, an HIV test is also recommended immediately after the exposure to establish baseline HIV status, followed by another HIV test one month after the exposure (see MMWR 8/15/96 for details of CDC recommendations). How long after a possible exposure to HIV does the person have to wait to be tested to be sure he/she is not infected? It is possible that someone who tests negative four weeks after an exposure may be infected but his/her body has not had sufficient time to develop antibodies. Therefore, to rule out HIV infection, it is important to re-test three months after the exposure. It is extremely rare for an HIV-infected individual to not develop antibodies by three months. An individual who tests negative three months after an exposure does not require further testing unless he/she may have repeated exposures or if their antibody test results are incompatible with their clinical history. What is the recommendation for testing for individuals who engage in on-going risk behavior? The primary focus of our work with individuals who place themselves at on-going risk for HIV infection must be continued education, behavioral counseling and harm reduction, such as education about safer injection practices and referral to syringe exchange programs and drug rehabilitation services. HIV testing offers no "protection" from HIV infection. An individual with a negative HIV test who engages in on-going risk behavior should be offered testing every three months and counseled to avoid risk behavior. In these cases, the function of testing is to ensure early access to care in the event that the individual becomes HIV positive. For more information about the window period, consult the following articles: Bartlet JG. Serology and Baseline Laboratory Studies for Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection Infectious Diseases in Clinical Practice, Vol. 4, No. 5, pp 334-42. Busch MP, Lee LL, et al. Time Course of Detection of Viral and Serologic Markers Preceding Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 Seroconversion: Implications for Screening of Blood and Tissue Donors. Transfusion, 1995 Vol. 35, No. 2, pp 91-7. Lackritz EM, Satten GA, et al. Estimated Risk of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus by Screened Blood in the United States New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 333, Number 26, pp 1721-25. Report and Recommendations: Fifth Consensus Conference on Testing for Human Retroviruses, March 6-8, 1990; Association of State and Territorial Public Health Laboratory Directors

Response from Mr. Kull

This is very helpful. Thanks.


Use of medications and HIV antibodies
What's exactly a rash?

  • Email Email
  • Glossary Glossary

 Get Email Notifications When This Forum Updates or Subscribe With RSS



This forum is designed for educational purposes only, and experts are not rendering medical, mental health, legal or other professional advice or services. If you have or suspect you may have a medical, mental health, legal or other problem that requires advice, consult your own caregiver, attorney or other qualified professional.

Experts appearing on this page are independent and are solely responsible for editing and fact-checking their material. Neither nor any advertiser is the publisher or speaker of posted visitors' questions or the experts' material.

Review our complete terms of use and copyright notice.

Powered by ExpertViewpoint