HIV Testing Options
Better2Know has several HIV testing options, depending on your personal preference and how long ago you may have been exposed to the infection.
As with many STIs, HIV takes time before it can be accurately detected. The time between infection and accurate detection is known as the 'window' or 'incubation' period. We conduct three types of HIV test, which detect the virus at various periods of incubation:
- HIV RNA PCR test: For exposures that occurred 10 or more days ago
- HIV Duo test: For exposures that occurred 28 or more days ago, our fourth generation test
- Instant HIV test: For exposures that occurred 26 or more days after potential exposure - results while you wait
We also provide HIV Medical Certificates if you need one. Please let us know whey you book.
Better2Know does not perform the 90-day antibody test in Africa, as it is no longer the premier test we can offer you. This test is still commonly used across Africa. We would suggest you choose the more advanced Instant HIV or HIV Duo test . As well as detecting antibodies, these tests both looks for the p24 antigen. If you have been advised to retest three months after your initial result, the HIV DUO test is appropriate for you.
Antibodies represent the immune system’s response to disease. If you have been infected with HIV, your body will produce antibodies that are typically detectable after three months. The p24 antigen is a viral protein that forms most of the viral core. Serum concentrations of p24 are high in the first few weeks after infection. This means that tests which are sensitive to p24 antigen, are useful in the diagnosis of an early infection while antibody levels remain low.
How is HIV transmitted?
HIV can be passed on in a number of ways, including both sexual and non-sexual transmission. The chances of contracting HIV through sex is increased if there is any blood present (such as during a woman’s period, or as a result of any cuts or sores), or if one or more partners is infected with another STI.
The bodily fluids that can transmit HIV include:
- Breast Milk
- Semen & Pre-Seminal Fluid
- Vaginal Secretions
The bodily fluids that cannot transmit HIV include:
HIV transmission: Vaginal Sex
If an infected man has unprotected vaginal sex (without a condom) with a woman, he can pass on the virus to her via the lining of the cervix, uterus or womb. The risk of transmission increases if she has any cuts or sores, as it is then easier for the virus to enter the bloodstream. If an infected woman has unprotected sex with a man, she can transmit the virus to him through either a cut or sore on his penis, urethra, or the inside of his foreskin.
HIV transmission: Anal Sex
Anal sex is riskier than vaginal sex as the membrane, or lining, of the anus is thinner and more delicate than the vagina. Hence, the area is more prone to tearing. For both anal and vaginal sex, the receptive partner is at a greater risk of contracting HIV than the giving partner.
HIV transmission: Oral Sex
Oral sex is considered a lower risk sexual activity in terms of contracting and transmitting HIV. This is down to the enzymes contained in saliva, which break down the virus. The lining of the mouth is also tougher than that of the vagina or anus. There is, however, a risk of transmission if sexual fluids encounter ulcers or sores in the mouth. The infection can also be passed on if blood from the mouth encounters any genital cuts or sores, though such transmission is considered extremely unlikely.
Other ways of getting HIV
HIV can also be passed on from one person to another through non-sexual contact. This can include:
- Blood Transfusions
- Healthcare Worker
- Mother to Child
- Sharing Needles
- Tattoos or Piercings
In countries where blood donations are not routinely screened, infected blood transfusions pose a high-risk for transmission. Healthcare workers can also contract HIV through infected needle pricks, or by encountering any infected blood.
Infected mothers can transmit HIV to their new-born babies, either during pregnancy, delivery or by breastfeeding. There are drugs which can significantly lessen the risk of HIV transmission, particularly if a mother knows her status early enough in the pregnancy. If you are pregnant, and do not know your status, then please get tested today, as it is possible to prevent your baby being born with HIV.
Sharing needles can be an extremely harmful activity when it comes to many blood borne diseases, including HIV, as needles are an efficient way for one person's blood to enter another person's blood stream. Also, if tattoo equipment has been used on someone with the virus, and has not been properly sterilized afterwards, there is also a risk of transmission.
What are the symptoms of HIV?
HIV Symptoms in the first weeks of infection
Many people will not experience any symptoms in the first few weeks of an HIV infection. This is why it is important to get tested. The early symptoms of an HIV infection are similar to that of many other diseases, including the common cold. They can include:
- Sore throat
- Chest infections
These fle-like symptoms occur in the first four to 8 weeks after infection. Given that these symptoms occur so frequently, the only way to be completely certain of your HIV status is to get yourself tested.
HIV symptoms in the first months of infection
Not everyone who has HIV will experience symptoms in the first few months, but when they do occur they most commonly include:
- Sore throat
- Body rash
- Swollen glands
- Joint or muscle pain
These symptoms are, of course, extremely common in various, less severe infections and illnesses. Therefore, the only way to be completely certain of your HIV status is to get tested.
Early diagnosis allows the infection to be managed and monitored, so that the person receives the care that is most appropriate to them. With the correct supervision, HIV is no longer the life-threatening illness it once was.
Long-term signs and symptoms of HIV
Though it may take longer to get over colds and other illnesses, an untreated HIV positive person can look and feel fine for the first few years of an infection. This period can last around 8 to 10 years without treatment, but it can be much longer if the appropriate treatment is followed.
After the initial phase, there follows a longer period involving fewer symptoms. This is often referred to as the ‘asymptomatic stage’. It is during this time that the virus attacks the immune system, causing a drop in the CD4 cell count. CD4 plays a key role in combatting illness and disease, by sending a signal to other cells in the body about foreign infections that need to be destroyed. As the CD4 count reduces and the immune system weakens, the person may begin to experience signs of other illnesses.
This is likely to be a sign that the person may have entered the third, ‘symptomatic stage’. During this stage, owing to such a weakened immune syste, infections such as TB and pneumonia become far more likely. Indications of other illnesses can include swollen glands, night sweats, tiredness, sudden weight loss, diarrhoea, and an increase in the frequency of cold sore outbreaks.
It is during this stage that an immune system becomes unable to cope and other infections begin to occur. These other infections may be AIDS defining illnesses, leading a patient to be diagnosed with AIDS. However, if a patient receives the appropriate treatment early enough, they will not go on to develop AIDS.
As mentioned, these symptoms can occur in people who do not have HIV. Therefore, the only way to be sure of your status is to get yourself tested, regardless of whether you have any symptoms or not. Remember, where HIV is concerned, it is always Better2Know.
HIV Test FAQs
Should I have an HIV test?
You should have an HIV test if one or more of the following applies:
- You have recently had unprotected sex (without a condom) with one or more new partners
- You or your partner have had unprotected sex with other people
- You have had protected sex with someone of unknown HIV status
- You or your partner have another sexually transmitted infection or disease
- You have shared needles or injecting equipment
- You have received a tattoo or piercing without a sterile needle
- You are pregnant or are planning a pregnancy
- A sexual partner tells you they are HIV positive
- There is any chance that an exchange of bodily fluids may have taken place with someone who is, or may be, HIV positive
I am extremely concerned – should I take the 10-day HIV test?
The 10-day HIV test, also available in the Early Detection Screen, delivers results within five working days of the sample’s arrival at our laboratory. If you choose this test, we always recommend re-testing at 28 days with our HIV DUO test.
How long will it take to get my results?
The turnaround times for both the 10-day and 28-day HIV test results are the same. Results will normally be available five working days from receipt of the sample at our accredited laboratory. Alternatively, our Instant testing results will be ready within 30 minutes.
Are my results confidential?
Yes. Better2Know’s test results are 100% confidential and will only be known to you and Better2Know. Results are not shared with any third parties unless you ask us to do so.
HIV in Africa - The facts
- The vast majority of the world’s HIV Positive population reside in sub-Saharan Africa, with East & Southern Africa the regions that have been hit hardest by the HIV virus.
- Every 15 seconds a child in Africa loses a parent to AIDS, and in Kenya alone there are now 660,000 children that have been orphaned as a result of the virus.
- Almost a third (28.8%) of Swaziland’s adult population are living with HIV. This is the highest prevalence of the virus anywhere on the planet, with unprotected, heterosexual sex accounting for 94% of all new infections.
- In 2015, an estimated 60% of new HIV infections in Western & Central Africa had initially occurred in Nigeria – a country that has the world’s second largest HIV epidemic, with 3.2 million people living with HIV.
Better2Know has HIV and STI testing facilities in many countries across Africa.
The statistics may be staggering but as the figures continue to grow, so too does the campaign to combat both the infection and its impact. This century has seen a considerable political and financial commitment to fighting the epidemic in Africa, with countries such as Kenya and Botswana dramatically scaling up their prevention, treatment and care services for HIV. Botswana was the first country in the East & Southern African region to provide free, universal antiretroviral treatment for people living with HIV.
Early Detection of HIV is key
The sooner someone with HIV is diagnosed and treated, the less chance there is of that individual transmitting the infection to someone else. Hence the importance of regular testing and early intervention. Better2Know’s Early Detection Screen, which also includes testing for HIV, Hepatitis B & Hepatitis C, will detect an HIV infection just 10 days after any potential exposure to the virus. This is one of the many, comprehensive screens we have available in Africa, combining HIV testing with the detection of other, common STIs.
At Better2Know, we believe in the normalisation of HIV and STI testing. Our aim is to remove any associated stigmas and improve the health of our patients in Africa and around the world.
The Advantages of Choosing Better2Know
- 100% Confidentiality. You will not have to give us your real name and results are never shared without your consent.
- Instant HIV results. Get results in under 30 minutes with our popular Instant testing option. Other results are available within one to five working days, depending on your selected test and location.
- Located throughout Africa. From Kenya to South Africa, we have hundreds of selected locations across Africa, making it easier than ever to get tested for HIV.
- First-rate facilities. Our facilities are modern, advanced, and meet the highest international standards.
- Non-judgmental staff. Our welcoming staff are friendly, experienced and highly discreet.