YOUR AT-A-GLANCE GUIDE TO TESTING
The HIV Antibody Test: What Is It?
It’s the most common test gay men will have during a sexual health check. The HIV antibody test is a blood test to find out if you’ve contracted Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
If you have contracted HIV, your immune system will start producing antibodies reacting to the virus within 2-8 weeks following exposure. These antibodies are detected by the test, and if you test positive, another test will be done to confirm the result. When the result is confirmed, it means that you have HIV, in other words, you’re HIV positive.
An Antigen Test: What Is It?
An antigen test will detect HIV infection at an earlier stage than an HIV antibody test. It tests for quantities of a protein known as p24 antigen, which is part of the HIV virus and produced in high amounts early on after contracting HIV. In Australia, most labs currently test for both HIV antibodies and p24 antigen.
A Rapid HIV Test: What Is It?
You may have heard about rapid HIV tests, or maybe you have even had a rapid HIV test at one of the trial locations in Sydney, or overseas where they have been available for some time. Rapid HIV tests are usually used ‘at the point of care’ while the client waits for the result, which is usually available within approximately 30 minutes. So the days of sweating it out waiting for results are over. A ‘reactive’ (or preliminary positive) result on a rapid HIV test is not a diagnosis of HIV infection, as rapid HIV tests produce a small number of false positive results. For this reason, a reactive rapid HIV test result always needs to be confirmed by laboratory tests.
There are trials happening now across Sydney, including a[TEST], ACON’s free community based rapid HIV testing service in Darlinghurst, Surry Hills, Newtown and Kings Cross, for gay guys and provided by those who know them best. To find out where you can get a rapid HIV test, click here.
List Of All Rapid HIV Testing Locations In Australia
New South Wales
180 Victoria St
Potts Point NSW 2011
Phone: 02 9357 1299
Kirketon Road Centre
Above Darlinghurst Fire Station
Victoria Street entrance
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Phone: 02 9360 2766
Immunology and Ambulatory Care Clinic (IBAC)
St Vincents Hospital
Level 4, Xavier Building, 390 Victoria Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Phone: 02 8382 2576
RPA Sexual Health Clinic
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
16 Marsden Street
Camperdown NSW 2050
Phone: 02 9515 1200
Holdsworth House Medical Brisbane
116 Robertson Street
Fortitude Valley QLD 4006
Phone: 07 3894 0794
Monday to Friday 8:30am – 6:00pm
Better Access Medical – General Practice Clinic
Queensland Injectors Health Network (QuIHN)
1 Hamilton Place
Bowen Hills QLD 4006
Phone: 1800 172 076 (Free call) or 07 3620 8111
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
Princess Alexandra Sexual Health (Meadowbrook)
Corner Loganlea and Armstrong Roads
Meadowbrook QLD 4131
Phone: 07 3176 5188
Princess Alexandra Sexual Health (PASH)
Woolloongabba Qld 4102
Phone: 07 3176 5881
Metro North Sexual Health and HIV Service – Redcliffe
181 Anzac Avenue
Kippa-Ring QLD 4020
Phone: 07 3897 6300
Metro North Sexual Health and HIV Service – Caboolture
Outreach clinic at
Caboolture Community Health Centre
Caboolture QLD 4510
Phone: 07 3897 6300
Call Redcliffe Sexual Health for appointments
Queensland AIDS Council
GP Clinic: Mon 10am-4pm & Thurs 11am-7pm
Psychology Service: Mon-Wed
Gender Clinic: Wed 1-4pm
30 Helen Street
Teneriffe Qld 4005
Phone: 07 3017 1777
Book online: www.clinic30.org.au
2 Winn Street
Fortitude Valley, Qld 4006
Walk ins (no appointments required)
Phone: 07 3013 5566
Service hours: Tue-Fri 3-8pm and Saturday 12-5pm
Rapid @ Wet
Wet Spa and Sauna
22 Jeays Street
Bowen Hills, Qld 4006
Phone: 07 3013 5566
Rapid outreach service hours: Tuesday 2-7pm
Rapid @ Bodyline
Bodyline Spa and Sauna
46 Peel Street
South Brisbane, Qld 4101
Phone: 07 3013 5566
Rapid outreach service hours: Wednesday 2-7pm
Bundaberg, Q Clinic, Wide Bay Sexual Health
312 Bourbong Street, Margaret Rose Building
Bundaberg Qld 4670
Phone: 07 4150 2754
Evandale Practice (Dr Stuart Aitken)
Suite 2, Level 1, 142 Bundall Road
Bundall QLD 4217
Phone: 07 5510 3122
192 Mulgrave Road
Cairns QLD 4870
Phone: 07 4041 7099
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday 8.30am-5.30pm
Cairns Sexual Health Service
Cairns North Community Health Precinct
381 Sheridan St (across from Tobruk Pool)
Cairns Qld 4870
Phone: 07 4226 4769
Cairns Hospital Department of Emergency
Cairns North QLD 4870
Gold Coast Sexual Health
16-30 High St
Southport Qld 4215
Phone: 07 5687 9200
S.H.op101 – Ipswich Sexual Health Service
Ipswich Health Plaza, 21 Bell Street
Ipswich Qld 4305
Phone: 07 3817 2428
Mackay Sexual Health and Sexual Assault Service
12 – 14 Nelson Street, Community Health Centre
Mackay Qld 4740
Phone: 07 4968 3919
Mt Isa Sexual Health Services
Doreen St Clinic
Mt Isa Qld 4825
Phone: 07 4744 4805
RAPID (Gold Coast)
Shop 12, 89-99 West Burleigh Road
Burleigh Heads QLD 4220
Phone: 07 3013 5566
Thursday and Friday 2-7pm
Clinic 87 – Sunshine Coast-Wide Bay Sexual Health & HIV Service
First Floor, 80-82 Blackall Terrace
Nambour Qld 4560
Phone: 07 5470 5244
Rockhampton Sexual Health and HIV Service
92 Bolsover Street
Rockhampton Qld 4700
Phone: 07 4932 5440
Kobi House,Toowoomba Health Services
Kobi House, Pechey Street
Toowoomba Qld 4350
Phone: 07 4616 6446
Townsville Sexual Health Services
35 Gregory Street
North Ward Qld 4810
Phone: 07 4778 9600
ERA Health (Dr Forgan-Smith)
563 Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: 03 9944 6200
175 Rose Street
Fitzroy Vic 3065
Phone: 03 9416 2889
Prahran Market Clinic,
Prahran Central Shopping Centre
Mezzanine Level, 325 Chapel Street
Prahran Vic 3181
Phone: 03 9826 6144
Primary Care Centre
123 Arnold St
Bendigo Vic 3550
Phone: 03 5441 8622
Australian Capital Territory
Interchange General Practice
Level 3, 28 University Ave
Canberra City ACT 2601
Phone: 02 6247 1719
Sexual Health Service
60 Collins Street
Hobart TAS 7000
Phone: 03 6233 3557
1st Floor, 275 North Terrace
Adelaide SA 5000
Phone: 08 8222 5075
Mon 9am-4:30pm, Tues 11am-6:30pm, Wed 11am-6:30pm, Thurs 1-4:30pm, Fri 9-4:30pm.
O’Brien Street Practice
17 O’Brien Street
Adelaide SA 5000
Phone: 08 8231 4026
The Pre-Test Discussion Checklist
- What the test means and the implications of a positive or negative result
- Your behaviour since your last test to gauge how likely it is you may have been exposed to HIV
- Your understanding of HIV, how it is transmitted and how to protect yourself
- The support available to you after your result
- The “window period” of the test you are taking and if you need to be retested.
Some clinics are providing an express service where you enter some of this information directly on a computer before seeing the nurse, which cuts down on the length of the discussion, meaning you get out of there quicker!
HIV self-testing (HST)
Ending HIV transmission by 2020 is possible, but only if gay men test more, treat early and stay safe. To help increase testing rates, the Australian Government amended regulation to allow HIV self-testing (HST) devices to be sold in Australia.
HST devices allow users to perform an initial screening test in the comfort and privacy of their home. It’s a very simple process – involving a mouth swab or finger prick – which produces a result in less than 30 minutes.
However, any such device needs to be approved for use in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and this is yet to occur. This means it’s currently illegal to sell HST devices in Australia.
But it is legal to buy HST devices from overseas for personal use in Australia. If you’re doing this, there are some issues you need to consider:
Using HIV self-testing (HST) devices from overseas
- As of July 2016, the World Health Organisation reports that 16 countries have HIV self-testing policies. It is important to research a device to ensure that it has been approved by a reputable regulator
- USAID (the United States Agency for International Development) maintains a list of rapid HIV testing devices approved for use in their programs (usaid.gov).
- Devices vary in terms of their quality and accuracy. They may also suffer from exposure to heat during international shipping which could affect the performance of the test.
- It’s unlikely that HST devices purchased from overseas will have Australian-specific information on what to do with your results.
- As these devices are screening tests, the possible results are ‘reactive’, ‘negative’ (non-reactive), or ‘invalid’. Any reactive result needs to be confirmed by a diagnostic test conducted by a healthcare professional.
- HST devices work by detecting HIV antibodies, which the immune system produces anywhere between 2 weeks to 3 months after exposure to the virus. Because of this window period, HST devices may not provide a conclusive result until up to 3 months after a risk of exposure.
- If you are considering self-testing for HIV, it’s important to make sure you know who to contact so you can to be linked into care, support and diagnostic testing services. For this reason, we also suggest that people not test alone and test at times when relevant support services are operating.
Need to talk?
If you want to talk to someone about a positive or reactive result, call:
- ACON: (02) 9206 2000
Free Call: 1800 063 060 | TTY: (02) 9283 2088
We provide an HIV Diagnosis Priority Service between Monday and Friday.
When you call, tell us that you’re newly diagnosed or testing for HIV and would like to speak with one of our counsellors or health promotion officers.
You’ll get a call back within one working day of your initial call.
- NSW Sexual Health Infoline: 1800 451 624 | TTY 02 9221 6515
- QLife: 1800 184 527
- If you want to talk to someone outside of business hours (9am – 6pm), then pls call Lifeline’s 24 hour crisis counselling service: 13 11 14
If you’ve had a recent risk event, you can take PEP to prevent infection, but only if it’s taken with 72 hours of exposure to HIV. Call the PEP Hotline on: 1800 737 669.
OTHER TESTING OPTIONS
Gay men have several HIV testing options:
- Free rapid HIV tests are provided at a[TEST] as part of a comprehensive HIV and sexual health testing at sites on Oxford St, Surry Hills, Newtown and Kings Cross. Book a test here
- Standard laboratory testing is available through most GPs and at all sexual health services. Find out more here
What is ACON doing on this issue?
As well as taking this step to inform our communities, we’re working with our partner organisations to advocate for better and faster approval processes.
4 Facts About Testing
- Fact: It takes time for HIV to be detected in the body.
Most people who’ve been exposed to HIV will test HIV-positive within one month after exposure, but a small number of people take up to three months.
- Fact: You’re highly infectious during the ‘window period’.
That’s the time between HIV infection and the production of antibodies. A lot of HIV transmission occurs because guys don’t know that they have HIV developing in the window period.
- Fact: Testing negative after three months is a good sign.
A negative test at three months will almost always mean a person does not have HIV if you have not been at risk of HIV transmission in the meantime.
- Fact: Your HIV test results are confidential.
If you’re worried about the confidentiality of your results, you should know that all testing in private GPs and public clinics is governed by Privacy Law. Talk with your GP or clinic about this when testing. At some clinics you don’t need a Medicare Card and in some cases you don’t even have to give your real name if you don’t want to.
Australia’s Policy on Testing
In September 2011, The Australasian Society of HIV Medicine (ASHM) launched the 2011 National HIV Testing Policy and the ASHM Testing Portal website. The 2011 National HIV Testing Policy supersedes the 2006 Policy, and is a shorter and more accessible document which opens the door for the introduction of Point of Care (POC) testing in Australia.
For more information: http://testingportal.ashm.org.au/