Check yourself for HIV

The HIV test looks for antibodies in a person’s blood. When HIV (which is a virus) enters a person’s body, special chemicals are produced. These are called antibodies. Antibodies are the body’s response to an infection. So if a person has antibodies to HIV in their blood, it means they have been infected with HIV (an exception is the case of an HIV negative baby born to a positive mother, who will retain her antibodies for some months).

Most people develop these antibodies within 3 months of infection. In rare cases, it can take up to 6 months. It would be extremely uncommon to take longer than 6 months for antibodies to develop.

Getting tested earlier than 3 months may result in an unclear test result, as an infected person may not yet have developed antibodies to HIV. The time between infection and the development of antibodies is called the window period. In the window period people infected with HIV have no antibodies in their blood that can be detected by an HIV test. However, the person may already have high levels of HIV in their blood, sexual fluids or breast milk. HIV can be passed on to another person during the window period even though an HIV test will not show that you are infected with HIV. So it is best to wait for at least three months after the last time you were at risk before taking the test. Some test centres may recommend testing again at 6 months, just to be extra sure.

It is also important that you are not at further risk of getting infected with HIV during this time period. The test is only accurate if there are no other exposures between the time of possible exposure to HIV and testing.

The only way to know for sure whether you are infected with HIV is to have an HIV antibody test. It is not possible to tell from any symptoms.

What Are the Reasons to Have an HIV Test?

Many people who have an HIV test have been worrying unnecessarily. Getting a negative result (which means you are not infected with HIV) can put your mind at rest. If your test result is positive, many things can be done to help you to cope with the HIV positive result and look after your health. If your test is positive, then

  • A doctor can keep an eye on your health. Many people who test positive stay healthy for several years. But if you fall ill, there are many drugs called antiretrovirals that can help to slow down the virus and maintain your immune system. You can also have medicines to prevent and treat some of the illnesses that people with HIV get. You may also have access to trials of new drugs and treatments.
  • If you do fall ill, the doctor is going to take your symptoms more seriously if they know that you are HIV positive.
  • If you know that you are HIV positive, you can take steps to protect other people. For example, by practising safe sex and informing you past sexual partners.
  • Knowing that you have HIV may affect some of your future decisions and plans, for example starting a family.

Where can you check yourself for HIV?

Here is the contact information.