Why do some UK clinics ask people to wait 3 months before an HIV test?

No UK clinic should ask you to wait for three months before testing.

UK guidelines recommend waiting six weeks after an exposure before having a 4th generation HIV test. This will detect 99% of infections. If you test negative after six weeks you don’t need to confirm the result with a second test.

If you test after four weeks, 95% of infection will be detected. When the UK recommended a four week window, this needed a second test to confirm the results after three months.

For 3rd generation tests, the window period is 8.5 weeks (60 days).

Point-of-care (POC) tests* have an even longer window period. This involves waiting three months (90 days) to reduce the risk of a false-negative result.

* POC tests include self-testing, self-sampling and rapid tests. For example, Determine HIV-1/2 Ab (3rd generation), INSTI HIV-1/2 Test and the OraQuick Rapid HIV-1/2 antibody test.

If your clinic doesn’t use 4th generation tests ask why not, and where you can get this test.

Please call i-Base if you want us to help.

Ref: British Association on Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) Adult HIV testing guidelines, March 2010. (web page) (PDF)

Last updated: 1 June 2021.