What is HIV Counselling and Testing?
When you book an HIV test, or a screen which includes HIV testing, with Better2Know, you are confirming that you have read this document, understand the information it contains, and that you agree to be tested. Please read this document carefully; by agreeing to the information it contains you are giving your consent to be tested for HIV. If your first test is positive, additional testing will be performed to confirm your diagnosis. If you are confirmed as HIV positive (meaning you carry the HIV virus) you will be referred to a specialist who will advise on the appropriate actions to follow and any treatments required.
Please take the time to watch the Better2Know Counselling and Consent video below.
What is HIV / AIDS?
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a retrovirus that can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). AIDS is a condition in which the immune system begins to fail, leading to life-threatening infections that the body would ordinarily be able to fight naturally. Infection with the HIV virus may also mean an increased risk of contracting other STIs.
There are two types of HIV – HIV I and HIV II – both of which cause damage to the body by reducing the number of white blood cells, called CD4 cells. Your body relies on these specific cells to help it fight off infections and other diseases.
Infection with HIV occurs through the transfer of infected blood, semen, vaginal fluid, pre-ejaculate fluid and breast milk from someone who has HIV. HIV can be spread by unprotected sexual contact with an infected person, by sharing needles and/or syringes (mainly for drug use) with someone who is infected, or through transfusions of contaminated blood. Having unprotected vaginal or anal sex poses an elevated risk of catching HIV. Getting HIV through oral sex – both giving and receiving – is also possible. HIV cannot be spread by toilet seats, door knobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bath tubs, shared clothing, or eating utensils. Babies born to HIV infected women may become infected before or during birth, or through breast-feeding thereafter.
Most HIV infections are acquired through unprotected sexual relations, with complacency playing a key role in HIV risk. Sexual transmission can occur when the infected sexual secretions of one partner encounter the genital, oral, or rectal mucous membranes of another.
Why should I get tested for HIV?
Knowing your HIV status can protect both your own health and the health of others. Regular testing for HIV is therefore essential if a person has unprotected sex (without condoms) with someone of ‘unknown’ HIV status, or if you think you may have been exposed to the virus yourself.
The sooner you are diagnosed, the better. Treatment for HIV is extremely effective and if it is started early, before the body has suffered any lasting damage from the infection, most people can expect to live a healthy and normal life. Getting tested will also give you the information you need to manage your sexual health. Knowing your HIV status will enable you to protect others from infection.
Which HIV tests are available with Better2Know?
Our primary HIV test is a test which looks for HIV type I and HIV type II antibodies as well as the p24 antigen. This is a 4th generation test and is highly reliable (over 99% accurate) if performed 28 days or more after any possible exposure to infection.
Another HIV test we offer is a test that detects the HIV virus itself. This is a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test (included as part of the Early Detection Screen), which will detect viral genetic material if present. You can take this test as early as 10 days after you think you might have been exposed to the infection.
I think I have been exposed to the HIV virus. Why can't I get tested immediately?
Many of Better2Know’s diagnostic tests and screens require a minimum period of incubation. This is the length of time between potential exposure to an infection and when the test will accurately be able to detect it. Incubation periods alternate depending on the STIs being tested for. With HIV, the PCR Early Detection Screen stands at 10 days, whereas the window period for the 4th generation test is 28 days.
What should I do if I test positive?
If your HIV test is reactive, Better2Know will run further, confirmatory testing to make sure of the result. You may be required to provide an additional blood sample and we will contact you if this is the case.
If you are confirmed as HIV positive, you will need to be referred to a specialist for evaluation, further tests, and treatment, if required. Better2Know will help you with this. You will also be asked about your sexual partners, or other people that you have had contact with, who may have caught the HIV virus from you. It is very important that these people are contacted and that they are also tested for HIV. This is the only way to know for certain if they are infected and, if they are, they must be given the appropriate medical assistance.
What should I do if I do not test positive?
A negative HIV test result means that the test did not detect an infection with the HIV virus. You need to be sure that you did not get tested too early (before the incubation period was finished) as this can lead to an incorrect result. A negative result is good news, but you should always consider having another test 90 days after the last one to be certain of the result. This is good medical practice.
How is HIV treated?
There is currently no cure for HIV or AIDS. However, the condition is no longer considered to be life-threatening if it is detected early and managed properly by specialists. People with HIV who receive the correct treatment should remain healthy and have a normal life expectancy.
Treatment consists of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), and advances continue to be made to improve both quality of life and prognosis. If you have tested positive for HIV you must immediately contact your own doctor or specialist.
If you think you might have been exposed to the HIV virus, either through a risky sexual encounter, injury or due to a condom break, post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) should be considered. You should contact Better2Know, or your healthcare provider, to seek immediate advice. PEP is a course of HIV medication that you can take if you have been at risk of HIV infection. The course of HIV medication lasts 28 days and, if you start taking it within 72 hours of putting yourself at risk, it may be able to prevent you from becoming infected with HIV.
Keeping yourself and others safe from HIV
An infection with HIV cannot be cured, but you can take precautions to reduce the risk of catching the HIV virus in the first instance. The virus can be caught from having sex with a man or a woman, it can be caught from sharing needles, or from any other activity where there is an exchange of body fluids from one person to another.
To reduce the risk of HIV infection, you should not share needles with anyone if you use drugs. Furthermore, you should always use a condom when you have sex. Make sure it is new, clean and undamaged. Remember, practising safe sex and never injecting drugs is the best way to stay safe from HIV infection.
When you book your test with Better2Know, you will be asked to acknowledge that you have read and fully understood this information about HIV and HIV testing. By confirming your booking, you also explicitly consent and agree that your test results can and will be released to and reviewed by Better2Know and to any doctor or qualified medical practitioner to help with your care.