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Repeat HIV test?

Dr. David: I went to my doctor’s office and I got tested for HIV. It was negative, but my doctor wants me to come back to get a repeat test in 4 weeks. Why is that?
Dr. Demetre: You have some questions? We know HIV.
Dr. David: I’m a doctor. I’m trained for this.
Dr. Leandro: We’re gonna give you what you need.
Dr. David: The reason why we get repeat tests after 4 weeks, and sometimes as long as 6 weeks after initial exposure, is because we’re worried about what’s called the window period with HIV. You have to wait a good 4 to 6 weeks sometimes to actually allow the immune system to produce the antibodies that will show up in a positive test. So again when you look at it this way, if you’re worried about an exposure, go to the doctor’s office, get the test at that moment, and then go back for a repeat in about 4 weeks just to make sure everything’s okay. As gay men we should be getting tested every 3 to 6 months anyway, so it’s probably a good practice to do.

Wondering why you need to get tested again for HIV? Dr. David defines what a “window period” is after a negative result and why repeat testing may be necessary.

The time period between when someone has contracted HIV and a positive test is called the “window period.” During this time – which varies by tests – a person could test negative for HIV antibodies, but still have HIV and be able to pass the virus to others if protections are not used. It is important to understand the “window period” for the tests you are taking.

Click here for more information on HIV testing.


#AskTheHIVDoc is a video series from Greater Than HIV featuring top HIV doctors providing answers to commonly-asked questions about HIV prevention, testing and treatment.

This information is shared for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. The views expressed are those of the featured medical professional and reflect information available to that professional at time of filming. Always consult a health care provider for any personal health decision.

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