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Really confused about window term
Nov 23, 2012

So I have been doing lots of research on line trying to narrow this window thing down and my chance of being infected with HIV. I know the CDC says Most people will develop detectable antibodies within 2 to 8 weeks (the average is 25 days). Even so, there is a chance that some individuals will take longer to develop detectable antibodies. Therefore, if the initial negative HIV test was conducted within the first 3 months after possible exposure, repeat testing should be considered >3 months after the exposure occurred to account for the possibility of a false-negative result. Ninety-seven percent of persons will develop antibodies in the first 3months. Why is the window so great if 25 days is 3.57 weeks, so understanding this correctly the CDC is stressing people out 3 times longer than they need tono I know there are always exceptions to the rule but what I have not been able to find is the dirty fact on how long someone should be stress. Additionally, in my countless hours of research I have read several places that indicated many states in the U.S. and other Europe countries that believe the CDC guidelines are too conservative and in reality 8 weeks negative should be considered conclusive. So I am really confused on the disconnect with conclusive resultsI really want to know is if I was HIV negative at 6 weeks and 6 days or 48 days from possible exposure can I breathe a little easier?

Response from Dr. Wohl

You ask an important question. The issue is how wide a net to cast so that you identify all cases as with HIV one would not want to indicate there was no infection, when if fact there was.

The HIV antibody tests in use now are excellent and detect antibodies sooner than the older assays. Therefore, the whole 6 months of testing paradigm can be tossed.

While you are correct that most people will seroconvert from HIV antibody negative to positive by 8 weeks post exposure, 12 weeks provides some wiggle room for the outliers. This may seem torture to those anxious to be certified as HIV-negative but it is necessary so as not to mislead people and to maintain confidence in the testing results.

Recognize that tests that look for the actual virus become positive within days of exposure that leads to infection. That changes everything and as those assays become more available, the window will close.

DW



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