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Testing inside "Window Period"

May 29, 2003

Hello Mr Kull.

Thank you for taking time to read this question.

I recently had a low risk encounter. Up until this point I never had fear of HIV. I have since searched the internet and found your website. It is the best out there.

Anyways, it seems there is alot of agreement that most (90-95) of people develop detectable antibodies (using newer gen elisa) w/i 3-4 weeks of infection.

I've noticed that you have stated this fact in about 5 of your answeres, where as Dr Bob seems to either not want to address it or completly denounce people from paying attention to it.

I guess I have two questions: (1) If this percentage is true, why doesn't the CDC or everyone else recommend getting tested at 4 weeks and then at 3 months? I mean its realy hard to wait three months. It seems it would be possible that after waiting a couple of months a person (lets say they are infected) gets drunk and has unsafe sex with someone else for whatever reasons. If that person had had a positive test at 4 weeks, wouldn't it be more likely that that person would not have unsafe sex because of the knowledge of the result and thus maybe keep another person from getting infected? (2) 95 of the websites I visited do not even mention the 90-95 seroconversion at 4 weeks. They all state that a 3 month test is a good indication but a 6 month test is conclusive. Why all the different information? Why don't they mention the majority 4 week timeline? Why did my doctor say that I shouldn't worry about taking another test at three months, that I should consider my 30 day test conclusive where as others say don't trust your 4 week test, get tested at 3-6 months?

Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much.

Response from Mr. Kull

Please refer to my recent response to 3 month test.

I know that people struggle with the guidelines, but I stick to them, so it's important to try and accept them. I adhere to the guidelines set forth by the CDC and New York State (where I practice), so that's what you'll see in my answers.

The guidelines are developed to rule out false negatives; that's why there is some padding on the other end, to rule out the possibility that a person is taking longer than the norm to develop a detectable level of antibodies.

Early screening for HIV is only necessary if you are at significant risk for infection. Otherwise, if you are at low-risk, getting tested at 4 weeks is fine, but you'll still want to consider getting tested at three months to be sure.


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