If a person tested negative for HIV but is still scared, they may have taken the test within the window period. This is the time between possible exposure to HIV and when the test can accurately detect it.
When someone has negative results within this window, they must take a second test after this time to determine whether they have HIV. Therefore, it is typical for them to feel anxious until they get definitive results.
This article discusses testing negative for HIV and why people who experience this may still be scared. It also offers tips for dealing with anxiety during HIV testing, provides sources of support, and answers FAQs.
Testing negative for HIV does not necessarily mean 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, which is the time between exposure and when the test is able to detect the virus.
- Antibody tests: These detect antibodies to HIV in someone’s blood or oral fluid. Antibodies are substances the immune system produces in response to virus exposure. The antibody tests have a window of 23–90 days.
- Antigen or antibody tests: These detect an antigen that HIV produces and the antibodies the immune system produces in response to the virus. The tests have a window of 18–45 days with blood that a technician draws from a vein. However, the window is 18–90 days in the rapid version of the tests, which involves blood from a finger prick.
- Nucleic acid tests: These tests detect HIV in the blood and have a window of 10–33 days.
The uncertainty of not knowing if the negative results will hold up can cause a person to feel scared.
- meditation — a practice of training attention to produce a calm emotional state
- mindfulness — a practice of being fully present in the moment, which involves awareness of feelings, thoughts, and the environment
When these measures do not reduce anxiety sufficiently, a person can consider talking with a mental health professional.
Additionally, it helps to remember that knowledge of the results is empowering during testing. If testing confirms that someone does not have HIV, they can
When an individual gets a positive HIV test, it may feel overwhelming. The first step after testing positive is finding a suitable healthcare provider to provide treatment.
Below are some places a person can visit to find support:
- HIV.gov: Helps someone find nearby HIV resources such as HIV testing. It also suggests nearby resources for HIV treatment and mental health services.
- State HIV/AIDS toll-free hotline: This helps someone get in touch with agencies that can identify the services for which they are eligible and tell them how to apply.
- Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program: This federal program works with local communities. It provides services for people who do not have adequate insurance or financial resources to pay for healthcare.
- Social Security Administration: This enables individuals to determine if they qualify for disability benefits due to HIV.
- Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS: This federal program helps meet the housing needs of those with AIDS.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: This lists various resources that can help someone obtain treatment for depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
- The Tribe: This is one of the online support groups available for anyone with HIV or AIDS.
Below are some commonly asked questions and their answers on this topic:
Can someone have HIV and still test negative?
Yes, this can happen because HIV tests
Can someone test negative and still have symptoms?
Yes, a person could test negative during the window period yet be HIV positive. If so, they could have symptoms.
What might influence an HIV test result?
Certain HIV tests are less sensitive. These include the rapid blood test and the oral test. An HIV test involving blood from a vein is necessary to confirm the results of these tests.
Additionally, an autoimmune condition, such as lupus,
An individual who tested negative for HIV but is still scared is experiencing a natural reaction to the uncertainty of not knowing if their test results are accurate.
There is a window period between the time of HIV exposure and the time when a test can detect the virus. For this reason, a test someone takes during this period needs a second test afterward for confirmation, which may result in a stressful wait.
During this time, it may help to take part in regular exercise or engage in mindfulness. However, someone can consult a mental health professional if such measures do not relieve anxiety. Additional support can come from toll-free hotlines, federal agencies, and support groups.