‘When should I get tested?’
Get an HIV test if you’ve never been tested before or if you’ve had unprotected anal sex since your last test.
Continue to get tested at least every six months if you are sexually active.
If you contract HIV, you won’t have signs of the infection in your blood straight away – this can take some weeks but is usually apparent within two to three months.
If you have had unprotected sex in the three months before getting tested, you will be advised to get tested again just in case the infection isn’t showing yet, due to the 'window period'.
What is the 'window period'?
The term 'window period' describes the period of time - normally three months after potential exposure - between HIV infection and the production of HIV antibodies.
If you are tested during this time and your test result is negative, you may still be incubating OR are at the early stages of infection when the test cannot detect HIV.
Therefore, you should get tested again if you have a test less than three months after the potential risk, even if you get a negative result.
Always practise safer sex
This is another reason why you should practise safer sex at all times. If you have a result that turns out to be a 'false negative', you can still transmit the virus to sexual partners during the window period.