People can live with HIV for years before having any symptoms.
The only way to be sure of your status is to have an HIV test.
Here we explain how HIV testing works and where to get tested.
What is the test?
A blood test is the usual way HIV is detected. An HIV test can either detect 'antibodies' (made by the body to try to fight HIV) or 'antigens' (a protein found in the HIV cell). Antigens are present in large quantities in the early weeks after infection and then stop being detectable, whereas antibodies can take up to 12 weeks to be detectable. Some tests just look for antibodies, while some look for antibodies and the antigens.
If no sign of infection is found the test is ‘negative’, if infection is found it is ‘positive’. Someone who tests ‘positive’ has their blood tested a second time to be absolutely sure the result is accurate. Testing positive doesn’t mean a person has AIDS or will go on to get it, but it does mean they can pass HIV on if, for example, they have unprotected sex or share injecting equipment.
Should you get tested?
How frequently you should get tested depends on how sexually active you are, and how you're having sex. Based off medical standards world wide, YGD recommends all sexually active Gay men and other men who have sex with men get tested at least every 3 - 6 months. The same recommendation is made for transgender women.
You should also seek medical advice as soon as possible if you have unprotected (sex without a condom) with a casual partner.
Remember, the only way to know your status is to get tested - Know your status to protect yourself and to protect others.
What happens at a HIV test?
In Bali, our clinics take a small sample of blood from the arm using a syringe and the blood is tested on-site using a rapid test kit. Results are generally given within 30 minutes.
If the test comes up reactive, a secondary test is given to confirm the accuracy of the result.
What to expect at the test
The test is free, and with a Doctor who specialises in sexual health. All the centres recommended by Gaya Dewata have doctors who are sensitive to the issues of the gay and transgender community. The test should involve a brief chat first to discuss why you've decided to test, what risks you may have taken and when. You should have explained to you how the test will work, what the possible results mean and be asked how you would react to whatever result you get.
How long does it take for HIV to show up in a test?
Signs of HIV infection cannot be detected in the blood immediately – this usually happens within four weeks of infection (sometimes longer). Different tests take different lengths of time before they can detect a recent infection. If your risk was in the last three months tell the person testing you as you may have to come back for a follow up test. Whenever the risk was, don’t put off testing. If your risk was recent the testing centre will probably advise you to have a test immediately, followed by a second one a few weeks later (this will pick up any recent infection the first test might have missed).
Very occasionally it can take up to three months for antibodies to appear in the blood, so an HIV negative result is only totally accurate if three months have passed between the test and the last time a risk was taken. However, a negative result four to eight weeks after taking a risk is a very good sign that HIV infection hasn’t happened. But to be absolutely sure another test should be taken around eight weeks later; the testing centre will advise you.
What happens if I test positive?
If you have a rapid test and the result is positive a second test will be done to confirm the result. Following a positive result you’ll have a longer talk about what happens next, what support is available and arrangements will be made to see an HIV specialist who will take care of your health. Support groups, counsellors and online support are all available to help you get through this period.
See our HIV positive section for more information on living with HIV.
If I test positive for HIV, does that mean I have AIDS?
Remember, there is no such thing as an ‘AIDS test’. Testing positive doesn’t mean you have AIDS or will get it, just that you have HIV. With today’s effective HIV drugs, someone who tests early and starts treatment in time can live a long, healthy and happy life.