What is 'Rapid HIV Testing'?
Rapid HIV testing (or point of care testing) provides reliable results for HIV within 20 minutes. One of the biggest barriers to people (especially gay and bisexual men) getting tested for HIV regularl is the time it takes to go to the clinic, get tested and then having to come back a week later for results. Rapid HIV testing is one way to help address this. There are two different types of HIV rapid tests. One collects oral fluids, the other involves a fingerprick. Both are very efficient at detecting HIV antibodies which are present if you have HIV.
When you get your rapid test you will usually also be given a blood test which will be sent to the laboratory to confirm or overrule the initial result. You will always be given a blood test to confirm results if your rapid HIV tests suggest you are HIV-positive. The results of the lab test will be available within a week.
Like laboratory based HIV tests, rapid HIV tests have a window period. The window period is the period between the onset of HIV infection and the appearance of detectable antibodies to the virus. Whilst most people will produce antibodies to HIV in around six weeks from infection, the window period for rapid tests is three months. This means that if you have had a recent exposure to HIV, the rapid test may not detect an infection.
What are the possible results of a Rapid Test?
There are three types of results that You could get from a Rapid HIV test:
- Non-reactive – HIV antibodies were not detected in the sample. It’s important to note that people in the “window period” might also receive a non-reactive result.
- Reactive – HIV antibodies were detected in the sample. This result needs to be confirmed with laboratory based blood testing. As rapid HIV tests are very sensitive, a reactive response can be triggered by a number of things that are not HIV related. If a reactive response occurs, there is a small chance that this reactive response is a false response (not related to HIV).
- Invalid – There is a small possibility that the rapid test may show an invalid response. This result is not an indication of a person’s HIV status. In this situation a person will be offered a repeat rapid test.
Where can I get a Rapid HIV Test in the ACT?
Rapid HIV testing is available from Interchange General Practice throughout the year.
Level 3, 28 University Ave, Canberra City ACT 2601
The Interchange General Practice provides sensitive, expert and comprehensive HIV, hepatitis and sexual health screening and management for people in Canberra. Rapid HIV tests are offered by this practice in order to increase the range of screening options. Contact the team on 6247 5742 for an appointment.
STRIP Clinic is a free monthly clinic offered to the public, hosted by AIDS Action Council at our office in Turner. Friendly, professional nursing staff from Canberra Sexual Health Centre provide sexual health testing. Limited consultations are also available with a clinician for people to obtain PrEP. Find out more about sexual health testing with AIDS Action Council here. STRIP Clinic does not currently offer rapid HIV testing.