Before getting to that question, it is important to get a few facts right. Firstly, any test conducted, whether blood or urine is done to detect HIV antibodies, which in turn indicate that a person has HIV infection.
HIV or Human immunodeficiency virus is an infection that is passed on from person to person through unprotected sex, blood transfusion or organ donation from an infected person, reused needles contaminated with infected blood or from an HIV infected mother to her baby. But having this infection does not automatically imply that an individual has AIDS (Acquired Immuno Deficiency syndrome).
AIDS is a disease caused by HIV and this happens only when the immune system has been weakened to such an extent that the body no longer has the capability to fight fatal diseases and infections.
If a person has AIDS then they will be prone to common infections like pneumonia and tuberculosis. Other AIDS related diseases include cancers, dementia and various bacterial viral as well as fungal infections.
Blood test is the most common and much used method of HIV testing. There are other tests available such as scraping from the insides of the cheeks, mouth fluids and urine testing. Although not recommended, there is an option of Rapid HIV testing too. These tests provide results as soon as 30 minutes after sample collection. But these tests come with a high rate of false positives. "Rapid" HIV test results are available within 10 to 30 minutes after a sample is taken. In any case, irrespective of the kind of test used, a positive HIV test result should be verified with a second test.
Testing for HIV is usually conducted at genitourinary clinics (where other sexually transmitted diseases are diagnosed and treated). Normal HIV tests results are available in a week's time.
Now, as for the right time to test; it takes the human body anywhere between three weeks to three months, sometimes longer to start developing HIV antibodies. As mentioned earlier, an HIV test aims to detect HIV antibodies. So, it is highly unlikely that a blood or urine test will detect antibodies as early as three weeks. Even if the body has started developing antibodies for HIV, there has to be sufficient amount of these antibodies present in the blood for the blood or urine test to pick it up.
If you suspect an HIV infection, then ideally you will need to wait at least three months to get a conclusive result. If you test before that, even if you do have the infection, it is quite likely that the result will be negative. Even if you take a test within a month, and it shows a negative result, it is best to take another test in a couple of months just to be sure. During this waiting period, it is best to be cautious and ensure you don't risk transferring this infection to someone else.
Testing for HIV infection is important not only in terms of ensuring other's aren’t infected, but it is important because the earlier the infection is detected, the greater the chances of slowing it down. It is true, that HIV does not have a cure, but there are several treatments and medications available today that can drastically slow the impact of the virus ensuring that an HIV infected person goes on to live an active long life.
Submitted by N on March 5, 2010 at 02:07