What is HIV Counselling and testing?

When you book an HIV test - or a group of tests which includes an HIV test - with Better2Know, you are confirming that you have read this document, understood the information it contains, and that you agree and consent to be tested for HIV and any other Sexually Transmission Infection.

Please take care to watch Better2Know's counselling and consent video below.

Please read this document carefully and be sure that you understand it well. By agreeing to the information contained on this form you are giving your consent to be tested for HIV. If your first test is positive, additional tests will be performed to confirm the diagnosis. If you are confirmed as HIV Positive (that you carry the HIV virus) you will be referred to a specialist who will advise on appropriate actions to follow and any treatments if required.

What is HIV / AIDS?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a retrovirus that can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), 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-1 and HIV-2. Both types of HIV will damage the body by reducing the number of specific cells, called CD4 cells. Your body relies on these cells to help it fight off infections and other diseases. The number of CD4 cells is reduced by the HIV virus, so you are not able to fight off infections as you would normally be able to.  

Infection with HIV occurs by the transfer of infected blood, semen, vaginal fluid, pre-ejaculate fluid and breast milk from someone who has HIV. HIV can be spread by 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 infected blood. 

Babies born to HIV-infected women may become infected before or during birth, or through breast-feeding after birth. 

Having unprotected vaginal or anal sex poses a high risk for 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.

The majority of HIV infections are acquired through unprotected sexual relations. Complacency about HIV plays a key role in HIV risk. Sexual transmission can occur when the infected sexual secretions of one partner come into contact with the genital, oral, or rectal mucous membranes of another partner.

Why should you get tested for HIV?

Knowing your HIV status can protect your 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. 

The earlier you are diagnosed, the better. Treatment for an HIV infection 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 normal and healthy life. Getting tested will also give you and your partner/s the information you need to manage your sexual health. Knowing your HIV status will also enable you to protect others from infection.

Which HIV tests are available with Better2Know?

We currently offer three HIV tests. Our primary test is a test for HIV type 1 and HIV type 2 antibodies and the p24 antigen. This is a 4th generation test. The test is very reliable (over 99%) if performed 28 days or more after any possible exposure to infection. 

The second HIV test we offer is a test that detects the HIV virus itself. This is a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) Early Detection test and it will detect the viral genetic material if present. You can have this test as early as 10 days after you think you might have been exposed to the infection.

We also offer Instant HIV testing in selected locations across Africa. This popular testing option detects both types of HIV as well as the p24 antigen, and is available 26 days after any potential exposure. Instant testing provides rapid results for six infections, including HIV, with results available within 30 minutes of giving your sample.

I think I have just been exposed to the HIV virus. Why can't I get tested immediately?

Many diagnostic tests have what is called an “incubation period”, which is the time between the possible infection and when the test will be able to accurately detect the infection. This window period is different for certain infections and can also depend on the type of test being performed. For HIV, the incubation period for the PCR Early Detection Screen is 10 days, whereas with the 4th generation test the it stands at 28 days incubation. As mentioned, the HIV Instant test requires 26 days of incubation.

What should I do if I test negative?

A negative HIV test result means that the test did not detect any infection with the HIV virus. You need to be sure that you did not test too early (before the window 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.

What should I do if I test positive?

If your HIV test is positive, Better2Know will run further, confirmatory tests on your sample 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 doctor or centre 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.

How is HIV / AIDS 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. Indeed, people with HIV who take the correct treatment will remain healthy and should 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 which 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 do things to reduce the risk of catching the HIV virus in the first place. 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 safer sex (using condoms all the time) 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, and that you fully understand that by agreeing this, you consent to HIV and other STI testing. 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.

To download and sign a version of this document, click here.