What is an Early HIV test? What does it involve?

  1. An Early HIV test is a test that looks for the HIV virus instead of antibodies. The vast majority of people will have enough virus in their blood 10 to 12 days after being infected to test positive on this test.

  1. The test is performed on a blood specimen taken from your arm, just like a Standard test.

  1. This test is just as accurate as a Standard HIV test. Results are usually available after a week.

  1. The Early HIV test looks for the actual HIV virus, not antibodies produced in response to the virus. That means the test can detect if you are infected when you are still in the window period of an antibody test.  If the test is positive, this means that you have acute HIV infection (see our FAQ page for more info).

  1. The Early HIV test is now provided to all male patients over 18 who get an HIV test at the locations listed on our ‘where to go’ page. In other words, you do not need to ask for an Early test if you get tested at these clinics.  

What is a window period? How does it differ across the various HIV tests?

From the moment the HIV virus enters the body, it takes time for the immune system to develop enough HIV antibodies to be measurable by a Standard or Rapid HIV test.  The period of time required for the body to produce enough HIV antibodies to become detectable by a Standard or Rapid HIV test is called the ‘window period’.  Tests currently administered in British Columbia have a ‘window period’ which can last from anywhere between 10-12 days (Early HIV test) up to 3 months (Rapid and Standard Test).