Why can it be a scary time for someone?

If a person tested negative for HIV but is still afraid, they may have taken the test within the window period. This is the time between potential exposure to the virus and when the test can accurately detect it.

If someone has a negative result within this period, they must take a second test after this time to determine whether they have HIV. Therefore, it is normal for them to feel anxious until they get final results.

Approximately 1.2 million individuals in the United States have HIV. In addition, some have not received a diagnosis, so testing is the first step to maintaining health and preventing transmission.

This article discusses testing negative for HIV and why people who experience it may still be afraid. It also offers tips for coping with anxiety during HIV testing, provides resources for support, and answers frequently asked questions.

Testing negative for HIV does not necessarily mean that someone does not have the infection. While the tests are accurate, none of them can detect the virus immediately after exposure.

There are three types of HIV tests, each with a window period, the time between exposure and when the test can detect the virus.

Below are the tests and the length of the window period for each:

  • Antibody Tests: These detect antibodies to HIV in a person’s blood or oral fluid. Antibodies are substances that the immune system produces in response to exposure to viruses. The antibody tests have a period of 23-90 days.
  • Antigen or antibody tests: These detect an antigen that HIV produces and the antibodies that the immune system produces in response to the virus. The tests have an 18-45 day window with blood that a technician draws from a vein. However, the window is 18-90 days in the rapid version of the tests, which uses blood from a fingerstick.
  • Nucleic Acid Tests: These tests detect HIV in the blood and have a period of 10-33 days.

Until to confirm negative results, a doctor retests a person after the window period for that test. If the individual has had no possible exposure to the virus during this time and the results are negative, they do not have HIV.

The uncertainty of not knowing if the negative results will hold can make one feel anxious.

According to a older study from 2016, anxiety is common during HIV testing. However, they can participate in some anxiety-reducing techniques, which Involving:

  • practice
  • meditation – a practice of training attention to produce a calm emotional state
  • mindfulness – a practice of being fully present in the moment, being aware of feelings, thoughts and the environment

When these measures do not reduce anxiety enough, a person may want to consider talking to a mental health professional.

In addition, it helps to remember that knowledge of the results is empowering during testing. If tests show that someone does not have HIV, they are allowed to take action to prevent them from contracting the virus. Conversely, if tests show they are HIV positive, people can start treatment, which may help them stay healthy many years.

Below you will find some frequently asked questions and their answers on this topic:

Can someone have HIV and still test negative?

Yes, this can happen because of HIV testing can not find the virus in the days immediately following exposure. If people test negative during this time, what health care professionals call a window period, they may still have HIV.

Can someone test negative and still have symptoms?

Yes, a person can test negative during the window period and still be HIV positive. If so, they may have symptoms.

What can affect an HIV test result?

Certain HIV tests are less sensitive. These include the rapid blood test and the oral test. An HIV blood test from a vein is needed to confirm the results of these tests.

In addition, an autoimmune disease, such as lupus, can cause a false positive test result. That said, HIV tests have few false positives.

A person who tested negative for HIV but is still afraid experiences a natural response to the uncertainty of not knowing whether their test results are correct.

There is a period between the moment of exposure to HIV and the moment at which a test can detect the virus. For this reason, a test taken during this period will require a second test afterwards for confirmation, which can result in a stressful wait.

During this time, getting regular exercise or practicing mindfulness can help. However, one may consult a mental health professional if such measures fail to alleviate the anxiety. Additional support can come from toll-free hotlines, federal agencies, and support groups.

Why can it be a scary time for someone?

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