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HIV and AIDS

Is There Such A Thing As A Silent HIV Carrier?

07/24/2002

Question:

Is there such a thing as a silent HIV carrier? In my case a previous partner has tested negative. She is the only woman I have had unprotected sex with. Is there any risk? Do I need to get tested?

Answer:

Following infection with HIV-1, antibodies to HIV usually appear within 6 weeks and almost invariably within 12 weeks. For every HIV-infected person, there was a "window" at least 2 weeks long following infection, during which they were already infected (and presumably infectious to others), but did not yet have antibodies to HIV detectable in their blood. After 12 weeks, only rare individuals who have defects in the ability to produce HIV-specific antibodies and those infected with HIV-1 O subgroup viruses (also rare) would be missed by the current HIV antibody test used. If you believe that a previous sexual partner may have been in the "window" period when tested, then you should be tested also. If you do not feel comfortable asking your physician for an HIV test, you can call your local health department to find out where free anonymous testing is done in your area. 

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Response by:

Lisa A Haglund, MD Lisa A Haglund, MD
Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati