Rapid HIV Testing FAQ

What is a rapid HIV test?

A rapid HIV test involves drawing a small amount of blood, normally via a finger prick and the result is usually available within 30 minutes. Because it’s a pretty painless and short process, that means it’s so much easier and convenient for you get tested. Find out where you can get tested here.

What are the possible results in a rapid HIV test?

There are three possible results, and it’s important to know that they are only preliminary. Blood will still need to be collected from your arm and sent to the laboratory for full testing and to confirm the result.

Negative: this means HIV antibodies were not detected in the sample. It’s important to note that people in the HIV ‘window period’ might also receive a negative result. This is up to three months after exposure in which HIV tests may not pick up on HIV antibodies.

Reactive: HIV antibodies were detected in the sample, but this result needs to be confirmed with laboratory-based blood testing.

Invalid: there is a very small possibility that the rapid test may show an invalid response, which means something went wrong with the test itself. This result is not an indication of a person’s HIV status. In this situation, the person will be offered a repeat rapid test.

Is the test scary?

We understand that you might be nervous about getting tested, but rest assured, it’s easier and not as scary as you think. If you find the thought of getting a test daunting, consider community-based testing services such as a[TEST] which is run by peers in a welcoming environment.

What if I don’t have any symptoms of HIV. Do I still need to test?

Yes. Some guys who are diagnosed with HIV don’t have any symptoms at the time they test, and don’t have a noticeable illness when they became HIV positive. So, even if you don’t have any symptoms, it’s a great idea to get tested regularly to be sure of your status.

Do I need to get tested if I haven’t taken any risks?

Yes. Even if you think there’s no chance you’ve been exposed to HIV, it’s always a good idea to make testing part of your routine. Remember, you should test at least twice a year and up to four times if you have more than 10 sex partners in six months.

Do I need to get tested if I’m in a monogamous relationship?

Yes. Did you know that one in four new HIV infections actually occur among men in a regular relationship? Many gay men who are reluctant to test feel knowing their status might affect or end their relationship – or that the test results might reveal that they haven’t been monogamous. But sticking your head in the sand just isn’t smart. Knowing your status benefits you and your relationship.

Will my HIV test results end up being made public?

No. All HIV tests conducted in private GP settings and public clinics are confidential and protected by Privacy Law.

What if I can’t afford to get tested?

The good news is that sexual health clinics – including a[TEST] – offer free appointments without a Medicare card.

Where can I get a rapid HIV test?

You can get a rapid HIV test at a variety of sexual health clinics or medical practices across NSW. In Sydney, you can take advantage of a[TEST] in Darlinghurst (Oxford Street), Surry Hills, Newtown and Kings Cross. Find out where you can get tested here.

What is a[TEST] and who is it for?

a[TEST] is a free, quick and convenient rapid HIV testing service run by peer educators. It is designed for gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men including trans and gender diverse people.

What is a peer educator at a[TEST]?

They’re gay guys who have been trained to provide health promotion advice and perform a number of screening tests for HIV and STIs including rapid HIV tests.

Are there doctors or nurses on site at a[TEST]?

a[TEST] incorporates both peer educators and nurses into its service model. The nurses are available to answer questions about sexual health, as well as to take the blood samples to test for syphilis, hepatitis C and HIV. There are no doctors at a[TEST].