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The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. You can’t tell if you have HIV just by the way you feel, because most people who get HIV don’t have any symptoms for years.
Testing is a good idea if you’ve had unprotected sex or if your partner tests positive for HIV. You should also get tested if you’ve shared needles with anybody (for shooting drugs, piercings, or tattoos). If you’re pregnant, get tested for HIV at your first prenatal visit.
Luckily, HIV testing is pretty easy and painless. The best part about getting tested for HIV? Once you get it over with, it can really put your mind at ease. And if you DO have HIV, it’s best to find out right away so you can take medicines to help you stay healthy and lower your chances of spreading HIV to others.
When you get HIV, your immune system makes antibodies that try to fight off the infection. The most common type of HIV test looks for these antibodies in your blood or cells.
It usually takes about 4 weeks for your body to make enough antibodies to show up on an HIV test, but it could be even longer. This time after you first get infected but won’t test positive for HIV is called the “window period.” If you get tested during this time, you can get a negative result even if you do actually have HIV. You also have the biggest chance of giving HIV to other people during the window period.
Rapid HIV tests give you results in about 2-6 hours. Other tests take longer because they need to be processed with machine and different methods.