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What Men Should Know

HIV Self-Testing 101

Taking control of your own health is in your hands, literally. Thanks to HIV self-testing kits, knowing your status has never been easier. Test for HIV in the comfort of your home whenever it suits you.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), HIV self-testing is defined as the process whereby an individual collects their own specimen (blood or oral fluid), performs HIV testing using an HIV rapid diagnostic test (RDT) and interprets the result themselves either assisted or unassisted.

There are two types of HIV self-testing kits currently available. The one test requires a simple pinprick of blood and the other version is an oral swab test that doesn’t need blood.

“The HIV self-testing kits have been doing very well since we introduced them at Cape Town Pride last year.” Says Johan Hugo, Senior Clinical Advisor at Ivan Toms Centre for Health. “We’ve found that people are more open to self-testing and we think that’s great. Self-testing is easy, we get to do more tests and most importantly, self-testing removes the barriers between us and our clients.”

Most HIV self-test kits rely on a simple pin prick of blood, are easy to use and can give you results in 15 minutes. The tests approved by the WHO are considered to be 99% accurate.

“However, remember that it takes six to 12 weeks for your body to create antibodies to the HIV virus. As an HIV test is looking for the antibodies – and not the actual virus – it is possible to get a negative test result during this window period.” Advises Johan.

It’s very important to know that HIV self-test kits are just screening tests and that the result of the test needs to be confirmed by a doctor or at a clinic by having a second test. Johan says whether your test comes out negative or positive, you would still need to follow up with a rapid test. “If you test negative, we encourage you to come to the clinic so we can screen and put you onto PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis). If you receive a positive result from your home test, you would need to come to the clinic as soon as possible for a confirmation test. If the second test is also a positive result, the clinic will start you on ARVs immediately.”

What you need to know about self-tests

They’re easy to use: You don’t need to mix any chemicals with your blood to do the test. Two lines means a positive result. One line means you are HIV negative. No lines mean the test didn’t work.

It gives results quickly: It takes a maximum of fifteen minutes‚ but in most cases it works much quicker.

It is very accurate: Self-Tests are 99.7% accurate from three months of suspected exposure to HIV.

If the result is positive, you’ll need to take a follow up test: An HIV positive test, whether done at home or with a nurse, always requires a follow up lab test using different technology. If the follow-up test says you are positive‚ you then need to start treatment immediately.

Here’s what available on the market:

Available at Clicks or Dis-Chem for about R210.00

Available at Clicks or Dis-Chem for about R185.00

The HIV l+O / 2 Rapid Test Device
Available for R300 for a pack of 25 from imeddistributors.co.za

Right Sign Rapid HIV test kit
Available for R27.48 from afrimedics.co.za

Homemed HIV Self-Test Kit
Available for R129 from takealot.com