|dated someone who was HIV positive...
Nov 12, 2007
Dr. Frascino, Quick question. I dated a guy for a couple of months involving physical intimacy. I found out six months later that he was HIV positive. Obviously I should get tested. However, I understand that even exposed to HIV, depending upon latency, I may not turn up positive. Could you expand on this for me please?
| Response from Dr. Frascino
It's alarming that you are having sex, yet know so little about HIV. I can only assume Dubya's disastrous "abstinence-only" sex education policy has struck once again! Or perhaps you were home schooled by folks who believe Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs to church every Sunday. Never mind. Whatever the cause of your knowledge gap, it's time for you to learn the facts about STDs/HIV. A good place to do so is right here with the wealth of information on this site, its archives and its related links. Start with the chapter on "HIV Testing Basics," which can be easily accessed on The Body's homepage under Quick Links.
To specifically address your question, when someone contracts HIV (primary infection), it takes a period of time for that person's immune system to kick into gear and begin mounting an immunological reaction against the invading virus. Part of this immunological reaction is the production of anti-HIV antibodies, which are proteins directed against HIV that circulate in the bloodstream. HIV-antibody tests, such as EIAs, ELISAs or rapid tests, screen for these circulating proteins in blood, plasma or oral fluid. The period of time between primary HIV infection and detectability of anti-HIV antibodies is called the "window period." During this time the HIV-infected person is indeed HIV positive, but tests negative on HIV-antibody screening tests. That is why HIV-antibody screening tests should not be performed prior to three months from the time of the last potential exposure. In your case, if your "physical intimacy" involved unprotected (no latex condom) sex, you will need an HIV-antibody test at least three months from the time of your last exposure. Also, because your exposure (if unprotected) was significant and your partner is confirmed to be HIV positive, the CDC would recommend a follow-up test at the six-month mark as well.
Good luck. Get informed! It could just save your life.
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