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Six reasons to self-test for HIV

Sarah Oughton

06 April 2023

Have you ever thought about doing an HIV self-test but held back because of too many unknowns? If so, don’t worry, we’re here to help

close up of someone's hands as they do an HIV self-test
Photos are used for illustrative purposes. They do not imply health status or behaviour. Credit: iStock/PeopleImages

If you are sexually active then doing an HIV test regularly is a really important way to look after your own and others’ health. We know that going to a clinic to test for HIV can sometimes be a bit intimidating, but an HIV self-test can be a much easier way to know your status.

Here are six great reasons to do an HIV self-test.

  1. You can test for HIV in a safe place  

Self-testing is a convenient and private option for finding out your HIV status. An HIV self-test allows you to test for HIV at home, or wherever you feel most comfortable. This means you don’t have to worry about facing anyone’s judgement for taking a test. And just to reassure you – nobody should be judging anyway and that includes yourself. Taking regular HIV tests is the right thing to do for your health – it deserves a high five!

  1. You can get super speedy results (but you have to test at the right time)

You can usually get results from a self-test kit within 20 minutes.

Self-test kits work by testing either your saliva (spit) or blood for antibodies to HIV (these are proteins your body makes to try to fight off HIV). Keep in mind that these rapid antibody tests can’t detect HIV straight after infection. For an accurate result you should wait three months after exposure before testing.

Just to remind you, exposure to HIV happens during sex if you don’t use a condom, or the condom breaks.

  1. HIV self-test kits are easy to buy

You can buy HIV self-test kits in pharmacies or online and you don’t need a medical note. If you’re happy to go to a clinic you may be able to get them for free. Costs will vary so it can be worth shopping around. As a rough guide, in South Africa they start from around R60 (just over $3).

  1. HIV self-testing is reliable

You can rest assured that an HIV self-test is reliable – the World Health Organization has been recommending it as a safe and effective way to test since 2016. They even say that doing your own is no less accurate than having one done by a trained healthcare worker.

On rare occasions a self-test can produce a positive result which is later found to be incorrect. If you get a positive result from your home test you should go to an HIV clinic as soon as possible. They will always offer you another test to confirm the result and make sure you get the treatment you need to keep you healthy.

  1. An HIV self-test is completely private

Occasionally, people find themselves in a situation where they personally know their health provider and it feels awkward to go to see them. Or you may worry that your information will not be kept private. In this case an HIV self-test can be an excellent solution.

  1. It’s easy to HIV self-test and it doesn’t hurt

These infographics give a step-by-step example of what is involved in testing either your blood or your saliva for HIV. Each test kit will have slight variations so always read the full instructions in your kit before beginning.

Pricking your finger to get blood might sound a bit scary – but it really doesn’t hurt – it’s a bit like the ping you can get from an elastic band.

See full details for this resource
See full details for this resource

If you’re thinking of taking an HIV self-test, try and have someone you trust with you to support you and be with you when you see the result.  And remember, whether your result is negative or positive it’s always better to know your HIV status. If you are positive then the quicker you find out, the quicker you can get started on treatment which will help you lead a long and healthy life.

We’ve got more info on HIV home-testing for you. Or if you want to know about other HIV testing options and what’s involved take a look at our HIV testing section.   

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