The incubation period can vary from person to person, depending on how fast the body builds up antibodies to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Although symptoms of HIV may not appear for years, there are different tests that can be performed to shorten the incubation period for HIV.
The actual time from the contraction of the virus until symptoms appear can take years, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Therefore, regular testing is recommended to avoid unintentionally spreading the virus.
After contracting HIV, the body may have a "window period" where the disease will not show up on a test. This is because the body takes time to develop the antibodies that provide the positive test result.
According to the CDC, the antibodies will appear on a blood test within three months for 97 per cent of infected people. In rare cases, the incubation period for HIV may be as long as six months.
A rapid detection test is available that detects the HIV directly, rather than the antibodies. The incubation period for HIV with an RNA test is between nine and 11 days from the time of exposure.
If a person is infected with the HIV, they are still capable of transmitting it to another person even if their test has returned negative.