Klinik Temasya
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD)

HIV and STD window testing- when is the right time to test ?

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There is this concept of incubation period in development on infection that can cause diseases such as HIV and STD. Incubator is a device commonly used to grow something, be it an organism or egg under a certain environment. It requires the right level of temperature and humidity for an optimal growth 

Now imagine that incubator is your own body. When your body first encounter a 'pathogen' (organism that can cause disease), your immune system needs to recognise it and start mounting antibodies to fight the infection. This time period is known as incubation period. You may or may not experience any symptoms at this stage.

How does this affect your STD testing? If you test for STD too early before the incubation period, your maybe tested negative. In addition, even after the incubation period has passed, there are some STD that can take months or years to produce symptoms. Since most STD tests use antibodies (not symptoms) as a marker of disease status, having symptoms is not necessarily a reliable marker of infection. That’s why it’s important to test for any STD after your sexual encounter even though you might not have any symptoms yet.

Every STD  has its own incubation period. For some STD, the body may begins to produce antibodies and symptoms in as little as a few days. For others, it can take weeks or months for symptoms to appear. After the incubation period has passed, most STD can be diagnosed via antibody-specific blood tests. Some STDs are also accompanied by lesions and can also be diagnosed via swab, culture, or urine tests.

Window period on the other hand is the time between when a person is exposed to a pathogen and when a test can accurately detect the organism. The time between infection and a positive test, or between infection and symptoms varied depending on various factors such as  the behavior of the pathogen, how and where the body is infected, the state of host’s immune system and the type of the test being used. 

Understanding the window period is important in deciding when you should get the test done and when it would be better to wait and get tested (or retested) at later date. Be honest with your doctor about when the exposure might hape happened. Doing HIV and STD testing outside the window period may give you inconclusive or false negative result. So it is very important to get regular STD testing done even though you do not have any symptoms. Talk to your doctor for more information about the right timing and testing to check for STD today.

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