All about HIV self-tests

By now you’ve probably heard of the COVID rapid antigen test (or RAT), but did you know self-testing kits are also available for HIV? While these kits have been used for testing for some time, they have only recently approved for sale in pharmacies across Australia, ­­and that’s great news!

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 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 that goes into the kit, before adding the test fluid provided. After 15 minutes, your result will be displayed.

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

How much do HIV self-tests cost?

In Australia, HIV self-test kits cost between $25 and $30 from a pharmacy, though it may cost a little extra if you are purchasing online for postage charges.

In NSW, guys who hook-up with guys can get a HIV self-test for free through the you[TEST] service. With you[TEST], you’ll have a virtual consultation with a peer expert to determine your suitability for the test before getting a kit sent to you for no cost! Aside from being a free and convenient service, a unique feature of you[TEST] is being connected with a peer expert who can show you how to use the kit and answer any questions you have.

Where can I get a HIV self-test kit?

You can find HIV self-test kits available from a range of places, including at pharmacies in-store, this online retailer and through the you[TEST] service. Currently there are only a limited number of pharmacies keeping kits in stock, with more to come.

You can find a list of in-store pharmacies here under the ‘Where can I purchase this product in person?’ FAQ.

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.

In the event that your follow-up test also returns a positive result, it’s important 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!

Still looking for more information about HIV testing or interested in getting a different type of test? Learn more about the different ways you can test here!