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Demystifying the HIV Window Period
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HIVmicrobe_lgMaybe you’ve got great HIV risk reduction strategies in place – always use condoms for anal sex whether you’re the top or the bottom – but there was that night, not long ago, when both you and the guy you brought home were a bit pissy and you can’t remember if you used a condom. Or, maybe you’ve done the talk-test-test-trust strategy with the new love-of-your-life, and now the rubbers are off with the boyfriend, and on with everyone else.

Or, maybe you only ‘top’ to reduce your chances of contracting HIV.

Whatever strategy you have in mind, if there is unprotected sex you need a sexual health screening. Also you need to consider the window period for HIV. There’s some confusion about what, and how long, the window period is.

So, to explain, the window period is shortly after risky sex when an HIV test returns a ‘false negative’. Clinical mumbo-jumbo around the type of test used will confuse rather than enlighten. So instead here are the things you need to know:

1) HIV tests are lookin’ for ANTIBODIES! Antibodies are the body’s reaction to any foreign intruders. It takes time for the body to mount a counter-offensive to these outsider microscopic terrorists.
2) 2 and 12! The HIV window period is anywhere between 2 and 12 weeks after risky sex. That’s generally how long it takes for the body to create enough antibodies that will register in the antibody test.
3) Highly infectious! While someone is in the window period, onward transmissions of HIV can easily happen when having unprotected sex, especially if fluids containing HIV are exchanged. So, test and then retest.

Those are the Australian medical guidelines, erring on the side of caution.

We want to keep you informed and up-to-date with the latest medical ideas. Here are some things you should also know:

i) Tests today are much more refined and can pick up a possible positive much earlier.
ii) Testing after 12 weeks is always the safest option you have. But, results after 6 to 8 weeks are reasonably reliable as well.
iii) Testing is an opportunity to learn what is risky, what is not and the variables of risk.

In short, the window period equals retest.

The WA AIDS Council has a number of options for testing. Contact the M Clinic on 9227 0734 or WAAC on 9482 0000 for more information.




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M Clinic

  • Testing Services

    Wanting to find out where you can get an anonymous confidential sexual health check? The Sauna Sexual Health Service and the M Clinic provide sexual health information testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and blood borne viruses (BBVs).



  • Peer Support

    Want to find out what it is like for other guys? Want to get support and information from guys who understand where you are coming from? The Project X Team from the Gay/MSM Program at the WA AIDS Council adopts a peer education model in our health promotion, outreach and education. All our programs are run by Gay/MSM guys and one to one peer support is also available.