When Is A HIV Test Conclusive? Everything That You Need To Know

HIV Tests are between 99-100% reliable. Newer forms of HIV tests, otherwise known as fourth generation tests, are closer to 100% accurate, while rapid tests are right 99% of the time.

When Is A HIV Test Conclusive? [Everything That You Need To Know]

If you have been recently exposed to the HIV virus, these rapid tests may not be as trustworthy as more extensive tests. 

What Is A Window Period?

Despite the overall reliability of HIV testing, no test can ascertain whether you have the virus soon after you have been exposed to it.

This is because each test for HIV contains a different window period.

This is the period of time that you will be required to wait until you can be tested and achieve a more accurate, conclusive result. 

How Do HIV Tests Work?

There are two simple ways to obtain HIV test results, these are laboratory tests and rapid tests.

For lab tests, a technician will obtain a blood sample and test it for HIV. These results will be delivered within a couple of days.

Rapid tests can provide you with results within twenty minutes of testing.

Rapid test results can be taken at home or within a local community clinic. 

What Are The Different Types Of HIV Tests?

Standard HIV blood tests use blood that has been extracted from your veins by a technician and sent to a laboratory.

These tests work by finding antibodies that are created by your immune system whenever you have been exposed to the virus.

These usually begin to form 23-90 days after you have been exposed. 

In comparison, antigen tests search for both antibodies and antigen. The latter is a substance that is made by the virus prior to your immune system forming these antibodies.

These antigen tests will require blood from your veins and can find HIV 18-45 days after you have been exposed. 

More modern forms of antigen tests are known as “fourth generation” tests.

These tests are able to find HIV in 99% of individuals who are tested 13-42 days after they have been exposed to HIV.

Thus, this test has become standard practice for those who are conducting HIV tests in laboratories. 

Rapid blood tests are another form of test that can be conducted to trace HIV in the body.

These look for antibodies by using a single blood from the prick of your fingertip.

They are as accurate as most laboratory tests, however, this window period is longer (18-90 days after exposure). 

Rapid oral testing is also able to be conducted to trace HIV. These tests can be conducted via quick and easy testing in the home.

When Is A HIV Test Conclusive? [Everything That You Need To Know]

All that is required is for you to rub a swab across the area between the teeth and gums in order to obtain a sample of oral fluid.

This oral fluid may or may not contain antibodies against HIV. If you have had HIV for a while, this test is incredibly accurate.

However, if you have only recently been exposed, this test may not be as reliable. This is because the window period is 23-90 days. 

Urine tests may also search for HIV antibodies. However, they are not as accurate as the other tests that assess the oral fluid or blood.

This is because it is an antibody test, and thus, the window period is much the same as a standard HIV test. 

Nucleic acid tests search for HIV in a window period ranging from 10-33 days after exposure.

These tests screen for symptoms and signs of the HIV virus itself, as opposed to the antibodies against it.

These are otherwise known as HIV RNA or viral load tests. These tests are conducted by extracting blood that is taken from the veins.

These tests aren’t administered unless you have shown symptoms and the doctor believes you have been recently infected. 

Can False Results Occur In HIV Testing?

Some HIV tests do have a minor chance of providing false test results.

These “false-positive” test results stipulate that you have HIV when you do not.

The test that is most likely to show these false results is the rapid oral fluid test.

Thus, if you take a rapid oral test and obtain a positive result, your doctor will also conduct a blood test in order to affirm your diagnosis. 

A HIV RNA test is not usually used to diagnose HIV.

If you have conducted this test and obtained a positive result, then you should also take an antibody test a few months thereafter in order to confirm that your diagnosis is correct.

If you have tested positive, you should always conduct a further blood test to affirm whether or not you have the virus conclusively.

The results of these tests together are usually more than 99^ accurate. 

The tests that are often used to conclusively confirm HIV infection are either indirect fluorescent antibody tests, or western blot tests.

If your screening has been sent to a laboratory, they can conduct this additional testing on your sample there and then.

However, if you have been tested at home, you will need to provide an additional sample of blood thereafter. 

What If I Have Tested Negative During The Window Period?

If you are concerned that you may have become infected during the window period, then you should conduct another test in order to ensure that you are HIV negative.

If you believe that you may have been exposed to HIV within the last 72 hours, then you should contact your doctor immediately about post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) medication that can help to prevent you from becoming infected. 


To conclude, the vast majority of tests that are conducted to assess whether you have become infected with HIV, return results that are 99-100% accurate.

How conclusive these test results are depends on the method of testing that you have implemented.

Joshua Damie
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