What is the incubation period for hiv?

Updated March 23, 2017

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.

Incubation Period

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.

Window Period

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.

Blood Test

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.

RNA Test

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.

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About the Author

Victoria Michaels graduated from Purdue University with a bachelor's degree in professional writing accompanied by a certificate in interactive Web writing. Michaels began her writing career behind the scenes writing as a grant consultant as well as creating technical user manuals for small companies. She writes for various online magazines and websites.