Think you’re HIV negative? Three reasons it’s not smart to say so
If you're getting tested regularly, you're doing a great thing for yourself and for the community. But saying you're HIV-negative might be misleading - here are three reasons why:
1) It takes time for HIV to show up in a blood test
An HIV test is like looking into the past. It can’t tell you if you’re HIV negative at the exact time you’re tested – only if you were negative three to four weeks earlier.
At the earliest, a blood test can show a positive result two weeks after HIV exposure, but it usually takes longer for the test to show an accurate result. This is what we call “the window period”.
That means if you were infected with HIV two weeks ago, you could still test negative for HIV today. And if you’ve been having unprotected sex with other guys during this window period, you could be putting them at risk of contracting HIV from you.
2) HIV is most dangerous when you don’t know it’s there
When you become infected with HIV, the virus begins replicating very quickly in your body and after a few weeks, you’ll have lots - possibly millions - of copies of the virus circulating through your system. This is called the "acute infection phase".
After the acute infection phase, the body's natural immune system will bring the viral loading down to a more stable level. Once treatment is started, the loading of HIV can be reduced drastically, sometimes to a point where it can’t be detected by a blood test.
What this means is that if you've recently contracted HIV (and aren't aware yet), you're at the point where you are most infectious you will ever be, and are therefore most likely to pass the virus on to sexual partners at this time.
3) About 40% of people with HIV won’t have symptoms
There are no unique symptoms that everyone will experience when they first become infected with HIV, and the majority of the symptoms can be easily confused with other illnesses, like a cold or the ‘flu.
It can take up to ten years for any clear symptoms to show, at which point the immune system will likely have been depleted severely and AIDS will have developed. At this point, it can be very difficult to fight off other infections and is potentially life-threatening.
This is why it’s very important to test for HIV regularly, particularly if you've had unprotected anal sex.
Unless you've been celibate for a while, you can never really know for certain that you’re HIV negative. Being diagnosed as early as possible after first becoming infected with HIV puts you in control, which is why regular testing is so important.
Once you start treatment, you're able to manage the virus to stay healthy and live a long and normal life, while drastically cutting down the risk of passing on the virus to others. Book a test now to stay in control of your health!