HIV Testing Before Sex Doesn’t Guarantee Safety


There is this misconception among young people that they can test for HIV before sex and have ‘safe’ unprotected sex.
Here’s why this cannot work💠
There are three types of HIV tests. Nucleic Acid test(NAT)- This is the most accurate and most expensive HIV test. Not routinely done, save for those at high risk. NAT detects HIV genetic material- i.e. RNA unlike other tests that detect antibodies.
NAT is relatively expensive and is used in the following instances; eliminating possibility of a false negative or positive, monitoring effectiveness of HIV treatment (viral load), recent exposure & early symptoms; confirming a diagnosis.
NAT’s superiority is also pegged on its ability to identify the virus sooner than the other types of HIV tests- 10-33 days after exposure.
The second type are HIV antibody tests, these rely on antibodies developed towards the HIV virus. Antibodies are produced by your immune system when exposed to an offending agent like a this case HIV.
Blood samples can be drawn from the vein, finger prick or oral swabs (e.g Oraquick) can be used. Antibody tests detect the virus 23-90 days after exposure. Antibody tests with blood drawn from the vein are more accurate than finger prick or oral swab samples.
The 3rd type of HIV tests are antigen/antibody test. They detect both HIV antigens and antibodies. Antigens are foreign offenders that activate your immune system. The culprit in HIV is P24. There are laboratory antigen/antibody tests, blood is withdrawn from vein.
Antigen/antibody tests detect HIV 18 to 90 days after exposure. Antigen/antibody tests done in lab with blood drawn from vein are more accurate than rapid antigen/antibody tests with finger pricking.
So what’s the point? Testing for HIV before unprotected sex does not guarantee safety, this is because all these tests as I have elucidated above have a lag time between exposure and when they can be able to test positive.
This asymptomatic period between infection and detection is called the window period and is highly infectious.


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