Having an HIV test is the only definitive way of knowing your status. By encouraging more people to know their status by getting tested regularly, we can END HIV transmission by 2020. In Queensland, approximately 20-30% of people are unaware of their HIV status.
With advances in medical research and testing methods, there are now a number of tests used for HIV. A test can involve taking a blood sample, a finger-prick blood sample or a saliva sample.
THE HIV ANTIBODY TEST
If you contract HIV, your immune system will react to the virus and start producing antibodies 2 to 8 weeks following exposure. The HIV antibody test analyses a sample of blood in a laboratory; if HIV antibodies are present, the test is positive (reactive) and a second analysis will be performed to confirm the result. An HIV diagnosis will be given if the second test yields a positive result.
THE ANTIGEN TEST
An antigen test will detect HIV infection at an earlier stage than an HIV antibody test. It tests for quantities of a protein known as p24 antigen, which is part of the HIV virus and produced in high amounts soon after contracting HIV. In Australia, most laboratories currently test for both HIV antibodies and p24 antigen.
HIV RAPID TEST (POINT OF CARE TEST)
The HIV rapid test is a screening test for HIV that provides results within 20 minutes by testing a small blood sample taken from the fingertip or a saliva sample. If an HIV rapid test is ‘reactive’ you will always be given a laboratory blood test to confirm the result as rapid tests produce a small number of false positive results.
If you would like to be tested for HIV, use the END HIV clinic search tool to find a testing site near you. You can also ask your GP for an HIV test or visit a Queensland Sexual Health Clinic or RAPID community clinic for a free HIV rapid test. For more information please read the RAPID FACTS SHEET.
HIV HOME TEST
In order to increase access to HIV testing, in 2014, the Australian Government announced the lifting of restrictions on HIV self-testing and has amended regulation to allow HIV self-testing devises to be sold in Australia. However, devices still need to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which has yet to occur.
There are two types of HIV self-testing kits available: home testing and home sampling. Home testing involves taking a mouth swab or finger prick and interpreting your own results. Home sampling involves taking a mouth swab or finger prick and mailing it to a laboratory, which makes the results available either by phone, text message, or online.