Yes, it is possible to test negative for HIV but, in fact, be HIV-Positive and extremely infectious, putting your partners at high risk for HIV as well.
We hear “get tested” over and over again, often without more detail then that. So what exactly is “get tested” telling us to do and what does it mean when we do ‘get tested’?
Most HIV tests (such as the ELISA tests) given at testing centers in the U.S. will test for the HIV antibody. When you are exposed to HIV the virus will immediately begin to multiply in your body until HIV antibodies that can start to fight the virus are developed.
It can take between 2 to 8 weeks (the average being 25 days, the longest 6 months) for your body to produce enough HIV antibodies for them to show up on standard HIV antibody tests.
What this means is that you can be infected and test negative and not only be HIV-Positive but have the virus multiplying in your body at a very fast rate making you very infectious to others.
If you believe you have been exposed to HIV and have been tested with an antibody test, you should be retested again in 3 months. I suggest that you demand and RNA test if it is not offered and you feel you may have been exposed to HIV. An RNA HIV test detects the presence of the HIV virus itself. The time between HIV infection and RNA detection is 9-11 days.
As men that enjoy sex with men, there are other sexual health concerns that we must also pay close attention to. Among those health concerns are STDs, which can not only have long term consequences on your health, but they can also dramatically increase your risk for HIV.
Men who have sex with men accounted for 63% of syphilis cases in the US and are often diagnosed with other bacterial STDs, including chlamydia and gonorrhea infections and are 17 times more likely to develop anal cancer, with a direct coloration between HPV and Anal Cancer.
When: The majority of gay men get tested for HIV annually, but based on the infection rates, it is apparent that annual testing is not enough. AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC), a leader in gay men’s health, along with many other qualified agencies, suggest that sexually active gay men with multiple or anonymous partners get tested for HIV and other STDs every three to six months.
Where: Most doctors will conduct a urine test or swab your penis but these tests will not detect all infections. If you have ever had oral sex you need a throat swab and to be checked for gonorrhea and chlamydia. If you have ever had receptive anal intercourse (bottomed) you should have an anal swab to test for these same infections. Rectal infections are very important to test for because you will most likely not have any symptoms of an STD when it is located in your rectum.
Anal pap smears may be helpful in detecting pre-cancerous lesions of the anus, but anal paps are not yet routinely provided to men by most clinics or doctors so you will need to ask, or even insist, on an anal pap smear if you are concerned about anal lesions and/or anal cancer.
Also a new vaccine has been approved for men to prevent HPV, the virus that causes genital warts and anal cancer. This vaccine works best when given before a young man becomes sexually active, or has had very few partners and no evidence of HPV infection.
Use this testing location finder to find a testing location near you, or just text your zip code to “KnowIt” (566948).