The type of HIV test we use
At NZAF we use a fourth generation rapid test known as the BioLine SD HIV Ag/Ab Combo test.
The benefit of this rapid test is that an accurate result is confirmed in just twenty minutes instead of the five to seven days it might take for a result from a standard blood test through your GP or local sexual health clinic. The rapid test is carried out a little differently at NZAF from a test used in the laboratory and does not require laboratory training or equipment. The test result and our process is confidential and anonymous.
Every HIV test has a 'window period' - this is the time from when you first become infected with HIV to when the test can detect the virus. Generally, the test we use will be able to pick up a positive result approximately 4 weeks after exposure to HIV. It is important to remember that this is the minimum window period and can vary from person to person. As for some people it may take longer for the infection to be detected after potential exposure, a re-test is recommended at the 3 month mark.
The test we use detects the HIV antigen (Ag) which is known as the p24 protein produced in the HIV virus. It is present in large quantities in a person's blood after the first few weeks of exposure to HIV. The test also detects antibody (Ab), which are proteins produced by a person's body to fight the HIV infection. Antibodies take longer to show up in your body than the HIV antigen (p24) as a person's body takes longer to produce them, and this duration can vary from person to person.
Testing early if a person may be exposed to HIV is important because research has shown that being diagnosed early and starting HIV treatment as soon as possible has positive outcomes on the person's overall health. Also, through being diagnosed and being on treatment, a person's viral load (which is the amount if HIV in a person's blood), becoming undetectable, the likelihood of passing HIV on to sexual partners is greatly reduced.