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How Long Does HIV Test Take?

The only way to determine if you have the virus is through testing, commonly known as HIV screening.

No one can give you a general answer to how long an HIV test may take.

Many tests examine your blood or other bodily fluids to determine your infection. Because it takes time for your body to produce antibodies or for the virus to multiply sufficiently to detect, most people cannot know their HIV symptoms right away, not until an test is done.

But, how long does an HIV test take to come back?

How Long Do HIV Test Results Take

Today, several HIV test options are now available. Each one may vary on how long the results come back, depending on the number of test processes involved. For example, a self-administered HIV test can provide results within 20 minutes using only a patient’s blood or an oral fluid sample. On the one hand, a rapid antibody test is comparably 10-minute longer than any HIV self-test at home. This test usually has a 30-minute waiting period before patients can know their status. If a patient gets a positive result after getting tested, the lab will conduct a follow-up screening using the same blood or oral fluid sample as the first to verify the result. Sometimes, it could take as long as 6 months for a patient to have enough antibodies to get a positive result.

Home HIV Tests

There are two kinds of at-home HIV diagnostic tests: antigen/antibody test and antibody test.

Antigen/antibody test.  To perform this test, a blood sample from a patient is examined. This test checks for HIV antigens and antibodies in a patient. The immune system produces antibodies when exposed to viruses like HIV. As a result, foreign substances or antigens trigger the immune response for protection against the virus that signals the possible presence of infection.

Antibody test. This test looks for antibodies created by your body in response to HIV. Generally, an antibody test that uses blood samples drawn from a vein can detect HIV more immediately than those from a finger prick or collected oral fluid. This test typically takes around 30 minutes or less to get the result.

The time for the results to come back also depends on the methods used for testing. Oral swabs can take between 20 to 40 minutes. Blood from a finger prick sent to a lab can take up to 7 business days to return a result. Meanwhile, a urine sample or a vaginal swab can take several days as this method tests for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

It’s crucial to carefully follow the specified test instructions in performing these tests, especially without a professional’s supervision.


The HIV RNA test is a type of nucleic acid test (NAT). It detects an HIV’s genetic material in the blood. This test provides information about a patient’s HIV status as fast as 10 days after exposure. As the HIV RNA test detects the virus itself and not antibodies, it’s a valuable tool for diagnosing recent exposure and gives accurate results in less than two weeks or a maximum of up to one month.


Like other at-home HIV tests, the CVS test also takes around 15-20 minutes for the results. CVS’ newer antigen/antibody combination tests, also called “fourth generation” tests, can detect HIV in 99% of people who are tested within 13 to 42 days of exposure. According to studies, the CVS HIV test has the highest HIV detection rate among other types of screening currently administered.

HIV Drugs

HIV treatment includes taking highly effective medicines known as antiretroviral therapy (ART) that work to manage the virus. ART is advised for everyone infected by the virus. Doctors suggest that people with HIV start ART as soon as a positive diagnosis comes back.

Currently, the window for HIV drug treatment is still dependent on a healthcare provider’s prescription to maintain a patient’s undetectable viral load. Taking HIV medicine as prescribed will manage the viral load to be low and the CD4 cell high. Skipping treatment could mean giving HIV the chance to multiply swiftly and weaken the immune system.

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