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Question
Posted by: Zoe | 2003/02/16

Time lapse before testing for HIV/AIDS infection

What is the earliest one can be accurately tested for possible HIV infection? Can a GP do it, or where else does one go for confidentiality? What is the cost please?

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Our expert says:
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Zoë, soon after the virus enters the body, the body recognises the virus and tries to kill it by producing antibodies. This may take up to 6 weeks – 6 months after the infection. This is the time where the ELISA (Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) and Western blot tests are negative and is called the window period. During this time the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test will be able to tell if you have been infected by detecting viral nucleic acid. By the way, the ELISA and Western blot tests are >99.9% accurate.
You can have your blood taken at any doctor, clinic or laboratory and all of them will keep your results confidential (you can sue them if they don’t). It will cost no more than R200 if you have it done privately (it’s free at state clinics as far as I know). Good luck.

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