HIV testing

Sample type needed

Blood

Incubation period 

From 10 days

Who is this test suitable for?

Men and women at risk

Results time 

Within 5 days from when your sample is received in the lab

Treatment

HIV cannot be cured, but can be managed with antiretroviral therapy (ART)

Where can I get tested?

All Better2Know centres

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What is HIV/ AIDS?

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can gradually destroy an infected person's immune system, reducing their body’s ability to fight infection and cancers. This occurs due to the reduced number of CD4 cells which defend our body against infection and disease.

As well as increasing your risk of catching other STIs, HIV can also lead to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). This is a term which describes when a person’s immune system can no longer cope because of the damage caused by HIV. This can be fatal, resulting in the development of one or more specific illnesses or infections that the body would usually be able to combat naturally.

What are the main sources of HIV infection?

The body fluids that contain enough HIV to infect someone are:

  • Seminal fluid (ejaculate)
  • Vaginal fluids, including menstrual fluids
  • Breast milk
  • Blood
  • Mucus found in the rectum
  • Pre-cum (the fluid that the penis produces for lubrication before ejaculation).

You can learn more about HIV transmission here.

What are the signs and symptoms of HIV?

The first symptoms can appear in the first six weeks of infection. After this, many people may experience no symptoms for years. 

Common symptoms of infection include:

  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Chronic diarrhoea
  • Skin rashes, especially on your face, genitals or anus
  • An increase in herpes ulcers or thrush infections in your mouth and genitals
  • Sweats, especially at night
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Nausea or loss of appetite
  • Swollen lymph glands in the neck, groin or armpits.

You can read more about the symptoms of HIV here.

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These symptoms can all be caused by conditions other than HIV and do not mean you have the virus.

However, if you experience all or some of these symptoms it is a good idea to get a test, especially if you have:

  • Engaged in high-risk activity including unprotected sex or injecting drugs,
  • Had sex with multiple partners,
  • Had unprotected penetrative sex with someone who is infected,
  • Received an injection or transfusion of contaminated blood or blood products,
  • Received a donation of semen (artificial insemination), had skin grafts, or organ transplants taken from someone who is infected.

It is also possible for a mother who is infected to pass the infection to her baby. This can occur during pregnancy, at birth and through breastfeeding.

How can HIV be tested?

Knowing your HIV status is always beneficial for your long term health. The test needs a sample of blood from your arm, or from a pin prick on your finger.

You can find out more about the Better2Know HIV testing options here.

Why should I test for HIV?

Treatment has advanced significantly over the last ten years or so, and being HIV positive is no longer considered to be a fatal condition.

If you are positive, avoiding testing does not make the virus go away. It does allow the virus to silently damage your health. The longer someone goes untested and untreated, the more chance that the treatment will not work as well as it would if started sooner.

Testing can save your life and protect others too. You can pass the virus onto others if you have sex without a condom, or practice any other unsafe sexual or lifestyle behaviour.

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