Get Tested

Are you ready to get tested?

Taking a HIV test is like taking any other medical test – it can be a difficult and stressful experience. If it is something you don’t feel comfortable doing on your own we recommend confiding in a friend or a member of your family and asking them to accompany you. When you go for a test there will be a professional counsellor who is trained to talk you through the process. The counsellor will be able to provide the relevant support if you test positive along with information. If you test negative they will advise you on how you can reduce your risk of infection in the future.


Steps you should take to get tested

The different types of HIV tests

Below we’ve listed a range of HIV tests. The most common type of test is the antibody test – it’s quick and easy and very reliable.

It is recommended that if you have put yourself at possible risk of HIV infection you should wait 12 weeks (3 months) before taking a test as this allows for the most accurate result. (Read more about this in the “what is the window period” section below.) We know however how hard it can be to wait, and in some clinics there are tests available that allow for accurate testing before 12 weeks have passed. You should speak to your doctor or local HIV clinic about the different options available to you. Not all tests listed below are available in every country.

  • HIV antibody test: When a person is infected with HIV their body produces special antibodies in response to the virus – an antibody test checks for the presence of these antibodies in the blood. It should be noted that these can take up to three months to develop to detectable levels – it’s therefore recommended you wait three months post possible exposure to HIV before taking this test. This test is the most widely used for routine diagnosis of HIV. It is very accurate and results are usually available in a 1-3 weeks.
    - Wait 3 months before taking
  • Rapid HIV tests: This type of test checks for the same antibodies in your blood as the standard antibody test described above – the difference is that results are available much quicker – usually in just 20 minutes. Ask at your local clinic if this type of test is available to you.
    - Wait 3 months before taking
  • Antigen test (P24 test): This type of tests looks for a particular type of protein in the blood called p24 – this is usually present very soon after initial infection. It’s important to note however that this protein fades away to undetectable levels once antibodies are produced – therefore the test is only reliable during a certain time frame. P24 tests are not usually used for general HIV diagnostic purposes due to their low sensitivity.
    - Available 1-2 weeks after possible exposure
  • Fourth generation tests: Fourth generation tests combine a P24 antigen test with standard antibody test. A person may take this type of test when they feel they can’t wait the full three months. It is recommended that if you take this type of test, you get re-tested after a full three months post possible exposure.
    - Available 1-2 weeks after possible exposure
  • Oral swab test: The oral swab is a method of HIV testing that requires no blood to be drawn. The oral test is taken by taking a swab sample from a person’s gums and testing it for HIV antibodies.
    - Wait 3 months before taking

What is “The Window Period?”

The window period is a time frame of up to 3 months between getting infected with HIV and HIV becoming detectable. During this period HIV antibody tests may not detect the virus. However, while HIV may not show up in tests during the window period, this is the time in which you are most infectious – and when you are most likely to pass the virus on to someone else. Most new HIV infections are spread during the window period.

When in a new relationship with a partner it is strongly advised that you use condoms for the first 3 months, even if you have both been tested

Find a Testing Centre

The link below is really useful for finding testing centres all around the world. Simply select your country and then click 'view organisations' in the bubble on the map.

If you can't find what you're looking for on the site then you can send us an email at hello@staying-alive.org and we'll do our best to help you out.

www.aidsmap.com/e-atlas