All about HIV self-tests

By now, reaching for a COVID rapid antigen test (or RAT) when you’re feeling unwell may seem like second nature, but did you know a similar self-testing kit is also available for HIV?

HIV self-testing kits have been used internationally for some time and have now become increasingly available across Australia since they have been recognised as effective and subsidised by the Australian government.

What is a HIV self-test?

The HIV self-test (or HST) available in Australia is a finger-prick blood test that gives you a result within 15 minutes. The benefit of the HIV self-test is that you can perform it at home or anywhere else you feel comfortable and that suits your privacy needs.

The HIV self-test consists of a small cartridge containing a paper test strip, a set of instructions, a bottle of test fluid (which is added along with a blood sample), and a disposal bag. The pack also includes a card containing a list of contacts in case you have questions or concerns about the test or your test result.

How does a HIV self-test work?

HIV self-test kits work by detecting HIV antibodies, which the immune system produces anywhere between two weeks to three months after exposure to the virus. Because of this window period, HIV self-test kits may not provide a conclusive result until up to three months after a risk of exposure.

The HIV self-test that’s currently approved for use in Australia uses a small lancet embedded in the kit to prick your finger. You then extract a small amount of blood from your fingertip into the kit before adding the test fluid provided. After 15 minutes, your result will be displayed.

This description is general, so be sure to follow the specific instructions provided with the kit you have on hand.

How much do HIV self-tests cost?

It’s now possible to order an HIV self-testing kit to your door completely free through the website. All you need to do is fill out a form with your details, and a set of two testing kits will be express-posted to an address of your choice – not bad!

Otherwise, you can also purchase an HIV self-test kit from a pharmacy, with the cost sitting between $20 to $30, though it may cost a little extra if you are purchasing online for postage.

Where can I get a HIV self-test kit?

You can find HIV self-test kits available from a range of places, including the website (free), at pharmacies in-store, and through online retailers.

What happens if I get a positive result?

While the HIV self-test is extremely accurate, it is still referred to as a screening test, which means your result will need to be confirmed by a blood test. If you return a positive result, seek out your doctor or sexual health clinic to get a follow-up test.

If your follow-up test also returns a positive result, it’s important that you speak with your doctor about starting HIV treatment and getting support. Living with HIV today is very different; HIV treatments are far more effective, and those living with HIV can have long and happy lives!

Are you still looking for more information about HIV testing, or are you interested in getting tested for STIs as well? Learn more about how to get tested for HIV and STIs for free!