HIV stands for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, it affects the immune system of an infected person and causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) which is fatal. Statistics show that more than one million people are living with HIV in the US alone, and a large number of the population is unaware of their status because they haven't got themselves tested. A test is considered to be accurate only if it's done after a period of 12-24 weeks. Most people don't get themselves tested due to the stigma associated with the disease and some who do, don't know about the window period due to the lack of awareness.
To detect this medical condition, there are different tests in the market but all are considered reliable only after the window period is over, which is a certain amount of time after the exposure to HIV. One of the most important facts is health organizations have classified it as a manageable condition which means it can be kept under control with medication such as Aids vaccines, diet, and nutrition only if detected early.
The three popular anti-body tests ELISA, Western Blot, and Rapid Tests like Orasure are considered reliable only after the window period. These reliable tests detect measurable antibodies to HIV seroconversion and the time taken for this is around 3-6 months. Seroconversion is maturation of antibodies to microorganisms as a result of infection, which in this case is HIV infection.
A window period is the duration between the perceived time of infection and the time required for the body to produce detectable quantities of antibodies for a HIV test. For example, if one has had unsafe sex on January 1st, and he/she wants to get himself/herself tested for HIV, it is advisable to do the test in the first week of April. For the test to give accurate results, he/she shouldn't be involved in any risky behavior from January 1st till the time of the test in the first week of April. If one has had unsafe sex on January 1st and then again on February 28th then the window period of 12 weeks starts from February 28th and it is advisable to get tested in the first week of June for accurate results.
Adhering to the window period rules is important in getting accurate results on one's tests. One of the biggest misconception is that if one indulges in a risky behavior today, it is better if he/she gets tested tomorrow to check his/her status. It is a myth that if one comes to know that he/she is HIV positive in the first week of getting infected, he/she can be cured. As of now there are no medications to cure the infection, medications available in the market can only manage the same.
Here is an example for better understanding, let us say on December 1st Jenny has unsafe sex with Joe who is infected with HIV. Jenny then goes in for a HIV test on December 10, the results of the test will be negative in spite of Jenny being infected with HIV. This happens because the body does not start producing detectable antibodies till 12 weeks.
It is crucial to adhere to the window period, if one is thinking about going in for a HIV test. Also, remember there are no clear HIV symptoms in the first few months so getting tested after this period is the only option. Most testing centers will offer the HIV test for free, one can check on the Internet for a center that is near and get themselves tested.
Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.