Life After HIV?
What is a Window Period?
When testing for HIV is done, it is usually the antibodies that are tested. Body takes time to produce antibodies after infection. So, if an HIV test is performed after HIV enters the body but before the body can produce antibodies, then this test will be negative, even if the person has HIV infection in the body. This is called as the window period – The time duration between the infection and the first possible detection.
In the case of antibody-based HIV testing, the body usually takes about 4 weeks to begin producing antibodies against HIV and on an average in about 6 weeks’ time, most people with HIV would have produced detectable antibodies. But exceptions do exist and sometimes the antibody production may be delayed by up to 3 months due to many reasons. Therefore, in regular HIV testing two tests three months apart are always advised before to ensure one does not miss the infection in a window period.
There are window periods for even antigen based and genetic material-based tests.
If I test positive, does that mean that I will die?
No, it does not. If treated swiftly and consistently, the HIV virus is manageable and NOT Life threatening.
Testing positive for HIV means that now you carry the HIV virus in your body. With the right treatment, you can keep the virus in check. This can substantially increase your longevity and quality of life against HIV/AIDS.
Is it possible that my tests results are inaccurate?
There is a small possibility (0.05-0.2% probability) that your test result is inaccurate. An HIV Test may result in a ‘false-positive’ (you are HIV negative, but your test result shows positive) in some cases. Similarly, there may be a ‘false-negative’ i.e. when results are negative despite the person contracting the virus. Similarly, there may be a ‘false-negative’ i.e. when results are negative despite the person contracting the virus. The chances of inaccuracy are very low (less than 1 in 1000 for the tests performed by the ICTC centres) and can depend on many concurrent health conditions. Moreover, window period is generally not considered as false negative. Therefore, Regular HIV Testing (link for Hello Doctor: Episode 8 (name needs to be changed to Hello Doctor Ep8: How Important is HIV Testing?) (every 3-6 months) is Very Important. (Angel, 2016; Centres for Disease Control and Prevention)
Is there a cure for HIV?
No, as of now, there is no cure for HIV. However, with strong adherence to ART (antiretroviral therapy), you can slow down the progression of HIV in the body to a near halt. You can live a normal and healthy long life, if you are on treatment.