Window periods

Published: 30 June 2012

The addition of testing for antigen reduces the window period by around five days, compared to third-generation tests.

Different authorities give slightly different estimates for the duration of the window period between exposure and the ability of fourth-generation tests to detect infection:

  • Eleven to 16 days1
  • 14 days2
  • 16 days3
  • Approximately two and a half weeks4
  • Three to four weeks after exposure5
  • Between 24.5 and 26 days after exposure6
  • One month7
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References

  1. Coombs RW Clinical laboratory diagnosis of HIV-1 and use of viral RNA to monitor infection. In Holmes KK (editor), Sexually Transmitted Diseases. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2008
  2. Ly TD et al. Evaluation of the sensitivity and specificity of six HIV combined p24 antigen and antibody assays. J Virol Methods 122:185-94, 2004
  3. Maldarelli F Diagnosis of Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection. In Mandell, Douglas and Bennett’s Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases (sixth edition). Philadelphia: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone, 2004
  4. Branson BM State of the art for diagnosis of HIV infection. Clin Infect Dis 45:S221-225, 2007
  5. Parry JV et al. Towards error-free HIV diagnosis: guidelines on laboratory practice. Comm Dis Pub Health 6:334-350, 2003
  6. Haute Autorité de santé Dépistage de l’infection par le VIH en France: Modalités de réalisation des tests de dépistage, argumentaire. www.has-sante.fr, 2008
  7. British HIV Association, British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, Children’s HIV Association. Don’t forget the children: Guidance for the HIV testing of children with HIV-positive parents. Available at http://www.chiva.org.uk/health/conferences/previous/dontforget (accessed 29 April 2010), 2009
This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.
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This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.