CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. About 1 in 7 people in the United States who have HIV don’t know they have it.From The CDC In the USA
People at higher risk should get tested more often. If you were HIV-negative the last time you were tested, and that test was more than one year ago, and you answer yes to any of the following questions, you should get an HIV test as soon as possible because these things increase your chances of getting the virus:
Are you a man who has had sex with another man?
Have you had sex—anal or vaginal—with an HIV-positive partner?
Have you had more than one sex partner since your last HIV test?
Have you injected drugs and shared needles or works (for example, water or cotton) with others?
Have you exchanged sex for drugs or money?
Have you been diagnosed with or sought treatment for another sexually transmitted disease?
Have you been diagnosed with or treated for hepatitis or tuberculosis (TB)?
Have you had sex with someone who could answer yes to any of the above questions or someone whose sexual history you don’t know?
You should be tested at least once a year if you keep doing any of these things. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent testing (for example, every 3 to 6 months).
If you’re pregnant, talk to your health care provider about getting tested for HIV and other ways to protect you and your child from getting HIV.
Before having sex for the first time with a new partner, you and your partner should talk about your sexual and drug-use history, disclose your HIV status, and consider getting tested for HIV and learning the results.
Testing for HIVFrom Better Health VIC
Getting an HIV test is easy and convenient. Tests for HIV and other STIs are available from your regular doctor, or from your local sexual and reproductive health clinic.
Regular testing for HIV helps identify an infection earlier, which enables you to get on treatment sooner. Not only does this protect your own health and wellbeing, but it also helps prevent the transmission of HIV to other people.
How often you should get tested depends on your personal practices, risk behaviours, and how often you engage in them. For most people, it is recommended to get a full sexual health test at least once per year, including tests for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and syphilis. Even people who always use condoms should get tested annually, as condoms don’t provide 100 per cent protection against HIV and STIs.
People at greater risk of HIV should test more often. Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men should get tested every three months, or four times per year. This may vary depending on how many sexual partners you have during the year, so talk with your doctor or sexual health specialist for advice. Your doctor can also provide information about how to reduce your risk for HIV and other STIs.
Blood tests for HIV
Blood tests are the most common and most reliable tests for HIV. There is a short period of time between exposure to HIV and the ability for tests to detect HIV or its antibodies. This is often referred to as the ‘window period,’ and is between two and 12 weeks. Most tests used in Australia can detect HIV as early as two to four weeks after infection.
If your blood test shows that HIV or its antibodies are present, you are infected with HIV (also known as being ‘HIV-positive’). If you have no antibodies in your blood (HIV-negative), it is possible you are not infected with HIV. But a negative result might also mean you are in the window period, so you might need a follow-up blood test to make sure.
Unlike rapid tests (see below), blood tests for HIV are covered by Medicare, which means your doctor can order the test free of charge for you. If you are not eligible for Medicare, you may also be able to cover some of the testing costs through health insurance cover.
Rapid tests for HIV
Rapid HIV tests are a convenient tool for people at greater risk of HIV who need to test more frequently. The test involves taking a drop of blood from a finger prick, and can provide reliable results in about 20 minutes. For most people, however, standard blood tests are the best choice for regular testing.
Rapid tests aren’t as reliable as blood tests, and have a longer window period. For this reason, your doctor should give you a blood test at the same time to ensure the result is accurate.
In Australia, rapid HIV tests are not currently subsidised under Medicare. A limited number of doctors and other health providers may offer rapid testing for a small fee.
In Victoria, Thorne Harbour Health (formerly the Victorian AIDS Council) runs a free rapid HIV testing service called PRONTO!. PRONTO! is a peer-based service site for people at high risk for HIV, primarily gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men.
Getting your HIV test results
Most HIV test results are available within 10 days.
A positive result can lead to feelings of shock, anger, distress, anxiety, and depression. It is a legal requirement for services that offer HIV testing to also offer counselling both before and after testing.
Before you are tested, talk with your doctor, nurse, or peer tester about your level of risk, the likelihood that the result may be positive, and about what a positive test may mean for you.
Post-test counselling is also important, regardless of the outcome. If the test is positive, counselling can provide emotional support, further information about living with HIV, and referrals to support services. If the test is negative, counselling can provide education about HIV and how to reduce your HIV risk in the future.
Living Positive Victoria or Positive Women are community organisations that provide support and advocacy for people with HIV, including peer workers who can help you navigate living with HIV.
HIV testing and your rights
Testing for HIV is voluntary and carried out only with your informed consent, except in exceptional circumstances. Before you are tested, you will be provided with information about what is involved in the test, what the results might mean for you, and how to prevent HIV transmission in the future. All people who request an HIV test must receive this information from the test provider.
Under Australian and Victorian law, it is unlawful to discriminate against anyone who has HIV. Test results, as well as the fact that you have been tested at all, are strictly confidential. It is illegal for any information about a person being tested or a person with HIV to be disclosed without their explicit permission.