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Is ELISA test enough within 3 weeks after exposure?

Question: 

Hi, I'm not sure whether I have HIV or not. To be brief, I observed diarrhea, muscular pain for couple of days after 15 days of having intercourse. Have also had CBC/HBV/HCV/FBS and lipid profiling along with the ELISA test and all the results are normal. ELISA test also showed non reactive results. It has been only 3 weeks since the intercourse (protected) and the individual claims of being HIV negative. However I might be feeling a bit different as this was the first experience. There are no mouth/ tongue sores. I workout almost everyday. But somehow there's question if I am infected or not. Could you guide what would be the earliest way to detect HIV?

Answer: 

Hi there, thanks for contacting the AIDS Vancouver helpline with your HIV related questions/concerns. We're happy to help !

Just to start off, protected sex is only considered to be a Low Risk for HIV transmission. This means that although there have been a few reports of infection in this way, they're usually under certain identifiable conditions. For example, a condition would be if the condom broke. If it remained intact, your risk is greatly diminished.

Further, in terms of symptoms, they're not a reliable way to determine if you have HIV, since they're vague and mimic other viral infections such as the flu. Therefore, testing is the only way to know. So great job on taking the initiative to go and get tested.

3 weeks is relatively early to get an antibody test done (ELISA's are antibody tests), but every negative result is a good sign. Most people develop detectable antibodies in 21-25 days, and antibody tests are around 95% accurate between 4-6 weeks after exposure.

For early detection, the best tests to get done are ones that test for genetic material of the virus or antigens, such as the NAAT PCR tests or the 4th generation antibody/antigen tests. These are most accurate within the first few weeks after infection. Past that, antibody tests are your best bet. So since 3 weeks have already passed, you're better off to continue with antibody testing at this point. If you take one within 4-6 weeks, your results are very unlikely to change, and are very indicative of your status.

I hope this helped! For more information about testing, please visit http://www.avert.org/hiv-testing

Sincerely,

Christina

AIDS Vancouver Helpline/Online
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