ALL ABOUT TESTING
Testing is one of the most important things you can do to help end HIV in New Zealand. A lot of new HIV transmissions come from people who don’t know their status and aren’t on treatment. So testing often is important. Get tested at least twice a year, or more often if you haven’t been using condoms during sex. Once tested, if you find your result is positive, start treatment. This is the best thing you can do for your own health and the health of our community.
As well as keeping others safe, testing regularly means that if you are diagnosed with HIV you can access treatment. The sooner you start to treat, the sooner you can get on top of HIV. Once on treatment, many people are able to obtain an undetectable viral load within six months. Some guys refer to this on dating apps with the symbol [+U]. Obtaining and maintaining an undetectable viral load brings the risk of transmitting HIV during unprotected sex down to almost zero.
If everyone in our community tested regularly and those who tested positive were on treatment, the end of HIV in New Zealand would be in sight. That’s how important testing is.
Testing for HIV is free, confidential and quick. There are two kinds of test for HIV – rapid HIV testing and standard HIV tests. This video from the NZAF takes you through the process:
RAPID HIV TESTS
Rapid HIV tests are done on the spot and you receive results in less than half an hour. It involves a simple finger prick to draw blood. You can get tested this way at over 20 locations around the country. These confidential tests are delivered by trained specialists who are there to support you through the process. Book a rapid HIV test through the NZAF here.
STANDARD HIV TESTS
GPs, hospitals and most sexual health clinics don’t do rapid HIV testing. Expect a standard HIV test if you go to one of these places. As for many other blood tests, blood will be drawn into a vial and sent to a lab for processing. You will usually wait 5 to 7 working days to receive your results from a standard HIV test. If your doctor is not aware that you are having anal sex with guys, it will be important to specifically ask for HIV to be included as part of a sexual health screening test.
If you are not comfortable disclosing your sexual orientation to your GP, you could also attend a sexual health clinic. Sexual health clinics regularly see gay and bi clients and their services are usually free.
You know you need to test – but how often? Testing is something all sexually active guys who have sex with guys need to do, regardless of their relationship status.
Follow this simple rule of thumb to make sure you are testing enough:
- Even if you are practising safe sex, get tested twice a year – make it part of a regular sexual health check-up including other STIs.
- Test at least once every three months if you have been frequently having sex without a condom.
- If you’ve had sex without a condom or think you may have been exposed to HIV some other way, get tested and consider commencing PEP immediately.