The more you read on the Internet, the more confusing this virus becomes. What's alarming about some web sites is the information is outdated, not of the general consensus or flat out wrong. Even the Center for Disease Control web site (cdc.gov) has vague information on testing and treatment. To make matters worse, the medical community is not up to speed with current information in regards to testing and treatment. Do not assume your doctor knows all about Herpes, cause they most likely don't. The most common thing they're incorrect about is that you need symptoms in order to be blood tested.
As a patient, you'll get an STD checkup, they'll tell you you're fine, yet you probable have no idea what you were tested for. And there's an 95% chance you were NOT tested for herpes because it's not included in a standard STD checkup. They may draw blood, they may say all your blood work is normal, but it doesn't mean you were tested for herpes. You need to requested it.
There are still several bad blood tests on the market, and some older ones too. Yet Doctors still order them because they're not up to speed with proper testing. The only tests that are FDA approved for herpes testing in the United States are:
BioKitHSV-2 Rapid Test
HerpeSelect HSV-1 and HSV-2 tests (ELISA and Immunoblot)
CAPTIA HSV IgG Type-Specific ELISAs
The way these tests got FDA approval was using the 'Gold Standard' WesternBlot blood test. You can get the WesternBlot test, but most doctors don't know about it, it's expensive, hard to get. Usually, the HerpeSelect test is all you need.
So, when you get tested, make sure you know what you're being tested for, and what test you're getting. Skip the older IgM test, their results are of little use in testing for herpes.
My recommendations for testing are:
Never accept a visual exam as proof that you have or do not have herpes.
Request an IgG type specific test. HerpeSelect is the most common.
Get tested for both HSV1 and HSV2.
Make you doctor pay for an IgM test if he/she orders it.
Get hard copies of the results so you can post them if you have questions.
Never, accept someone telling you over the phone your results. Get hard copies, this way you can double check the results and just what test was performed.
All blood tests recommend waiting 12-16 weeks post possible exposure before getting tested. Some people will seroconvert (turn positive) as soon as 2 weeks, most by week 8, the rest trickling in after that. By week 16, 98% of the people who will turn positive have done so. There are rare cases where someone could take longer than 6 months, even one year. But those are very very rare. Bottom line is the longer you wait the higher the accuracy of a negative result.
Cultures have a high rate of false negatives, so it should always be followed up with a blood test.