There might come a time when you need to test for HIV on your own. Perhaps you’ve had a risky encounter and don’t want to wait weeks or months for clinic results. Or maybe you’re just curious about your status and want to do an HIV sti test at home. Either way, self-testing for HIV is possible – if you have the right tools.
This article will discuss how to test for HIV on your own.
What is HIV?
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a deadly pathogen that slowly destroys the infected person’s immune system, making them susceptible to other infections and illnesses. It is mainly transmitted through sexual contact, sharing needles, and mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy or childbirth.
While there is currently no cure, it can be effectively managed with antiretroviral therapy (ART), allowing those living with HIV to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. It is essential to practice safe sex and get tested regularly to prevent the spread of HIV and ensure early diagnosis and treatment.
With proper preventive measures and treatment options, we can reduce the impact of HIV on individuals and communities worldwide.
To test for HIV at home
You can do the following if you’d like to try an at-home HIV test.
Buy a test kit
Purchase an over-the-counter test from a pharmacy – there are several different tests available; check the instructions for the one you choose. The test will either be a swab or a finger-prick, so follow the instructions carefully to get accurate results.
Read the instructions
When using an over-the-counter HIV test that involves taking blood or saliva from your mouth, read and follow the directions on the packaging very carefully. If you’re unsure how to do it exactly, ask someone to help you – like a friend or family member.
Read and follow any other instructions provided by your chosen test kit carefully. This includes ensuring you know where to send it and what to do if you experience any problems. Some tests can take up to four weeks or longer to return results, so you must keep this in mind when making your decision.
If the result is positive
If the test is positive, you will need an anti-HIV medicine called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV. This can be obtained at a sexual health clinic immediately and should ideally be started within 72 hours of potentially being exposed to HIV (you may have already been given this from the time of exposure).
Your doctor or nurse will go through the PEP regime with you, including the medicines required and for how long. You must get referred for testing by your doctor or nurse, even if you are using an over-the-counter test.
If the result is negative
If the results are negative, you must follow up with your doctor or sexual health clinic for further tests and advice on keeping yourself safe. It’s possible that HIV may not show up immediately after infection (known as a ‘window period’). If this is the case, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have HIV. You will still need regular testing to ensure this isn’t happening – your GP can talk through your options for retesting and when you should get tested next, depending on where you are.
Make sure that if you test negative, you always use condoms, even with trusted partners.
Get a hepatitis B shot
Get vaccinated against hepatitis B if it is recommended in your country – this is particularly important if you think you were exposed to HIV through injecting drugs, tattoos or body piercings. Speak with your doctor about getting vaccinated against hepatitis B as soon as possible after being tested for HIV – the series of three hepatitis B vaccines needs to be administered within 14 days of potential exposure to work.
Find out about PrEP
It may be a good idea to ask your doctor or nurse about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) if you think it might suit you. PrEP is a once-daily pill that helps prevent HIV infection and can help keep you safe in the future if used correctly.
Remember, PEP and PrEP are not cures for HIV – they are preventative measures that should only be used by people who have been exposed to HIV recently and want to reduce their chances of getting infected with the virus. They do not protect against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so remember to use condoms even if you take these medicines as part of your routine sexual health care.
Talk to a medical professional for further assistance
If you are worried about HIV or have any concerns, your doctor or nurse can talk you through the following steps and tell you where you can get tested.
All in all
You can test for HIV at home with a self-testing kit. These kits are available online and at some pharmacies. Home testing is confidential and private, allowing you to get your results in the comfort of your home. If you’re considering home testing, read the instructions carefully and follow them closely. With some preparation, you can quickly test for HIV on your own.