HIV Testing

Many people who have engaged in risky behaviour, like unprotected sex, often start to look for symptoms of HIV in themselves. But illnesses and infections that can be signs of HIV are also very common complaints that HIV-negative people experience too.

The only way to know if you have HIV is to have an HIV test.

A lot of people feel nervous about testing, but the reasons to test far outweigh the reasons not to test. The main reasons why you should get tested are:

  • If you are HIV-negative, you can take steps to stay negative and protect yourself and your partner.
  • If you are HIV-positive, you can start treatment, live a long and healthy life and protect the people you love.

You cannot use your partner's HIV status as an indication of your own HIV status.

Brothers for Life Ambassador, Sammy Matlou describes why it is important to know one's status, his delight at a negative diagnosis and his determination to discuss testing with friends. WATCH

When to go for an HIV test

You can test for HIV at any time. Even if you think that you are not at risk, regular testing is important. Many people only test when they feel sick or they are losing weight. This is incorrect. HIV can live in your body for many years before you feel sick, and the earlier you know your status the earlier you can start treatment. Starting treatment early and sticking to treatment without skipping or stopping leads to viral load suppression. This is when the amount of HIV in the body is so low that it is undetectable by a viral load test. When HIV is suppressed it is not doing harm to the immune system, which protects the body from infection and disease.

How an HIV test works

There are different types of HIV tests. The type used in Government facilities and pharmacies is a rapid test which looks for HIV antibodies in the blood. HIV antibodies are made by the body when HIV is present. However, it can take 4-6 weeks for the body to make these HIV antibodies and that means the test can't pick up that a person has HIV even though the virus is present. This is called the window period. The window period is why you should go back and test again 4-6 weeks after the first HIV test.

There are tests which can detect HIV early on before the HIV antibodies are present. These tests look for the p24 antigen which is a part of HIV instead of HIV antibodies. These tests are called PCR HIV tests.

What to expect when you go for an HIV test

Whether you test at a Government clinic or hospital, or at a pharmacy, you will be given HIV counselling before the test. The healthcare worker will prick your finger to collect a small amount of blood for the test. The results take 30 - 35 minutes to develop. After the test results have developed the healthcare worker will explain your HIV test results to you and give post-test HIV counselling.

Where to test

Government health facilities: All government health facilities offer free HIV testing. You can find a list of hospitals, clinics and their addresses on *120*662# or at www.healthsites.org.za

Community testing: There are many community and health organisations that offer testing at public places like parks and taxi ranks. They move around, and so it is hard to know exactly where they will be on any day. Some of the organisations will make special plans to test at community events if a member of the public requests them to do so.

HIV testing at home: Many pharmacies sell HIV home testing kits, which you can use to test yourself in the privacy of your own home. Note that if you test positive, you will need to go to your nearest health site where they will confirm if you are indeed positive, and put you on treatment if required.

Pharmacies: Many pharmacies offer testing HIV testing for a fee. These pharmacies have chains in different provinces:

Pharmacy Contact

Dischem

0861 117 427

Clicks

0860 737 328

Pharma Value

0800 222 629

About Us

Brothers for Life is a social and well-being movement aimed at mobilising men to take responsibility for their own health. We hope to achieve this by promoting positive male norms and encourage men to test for HIV and undergo Medical Male Circumcision (MMC), actively take a stand against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in their communities.

Our Manifesto

Brothers who stand for responsible relationships
Brothers who stand for responsible parenting
Brothers who stand for responsible behaviour
Brothers who live positively
Brothers who do the right thing
Brothers who stand for life