Going for an HIV test can be a scary thought but there is power in knowing your status. This is why it’s important to go for regular HIV testing with your partner or partners. When you know your status, you can go on treatment called antiretroviral treatment (ARVs). They make it possible for people who are HIV positive to live a long and healthy life. Another benefit of going for an HIV test is that should results come back positive, your pregnant partner will be given ARVs to stop the virus from infecting your child. The most important thing you need to know about an HIV test is that you are not forced to take it. In other words, your employer cannot force to go for an HIV test. You are also not forced to reveal your HIV status to your employer.


So, what is an HIV test and how does it work?

This is a blood test used to check if you have the virus or not.  It can be done by sending your blood to a laboratory, which means you will wait up to a week for your results. There is also the rapid test, which shows results in 5 to 30 minutes. The doctor or nurse will prick your finger to get blood. This is then put on a stick for a reading.


I want to go for a test but I’m nervous about my results. Is there help?

By law, all HIV tests in South Africa start and end with counselling. This is a very important part of the test, and it does not mean that you are HIV positive.


Why do I need counselling then?

The counselling session you have before your test is to help you understand how the test works. You may also be asked questions about why you want to test, how many partners you have and other information that’s only asked so the health care professional knows how to support you through your test.


Why do I need counselling after testing?

If your test comes back negative, this session will be used to help you understand how you can have safer sex. It will also allow you to ask questions you may have about maintaining an HIV status. Should your results come back positive, you will be given emotional support as well as information about living positively with HIV. Remember: HIV is not a death sentence. Don’t be scared of your test results whatever they are.


What happens if my results come back positive?

It’s natural to feel alone and scared. But you need to always remember that HIV is not a death sentence. You can live a long, happy and productive life, and your partner or partners can still have your children even. If the results are positive you will be referred to an HIV specialist. They will conduct more tests to see how well your immune system works, including how the virus is moving in your body. The only way to live positively is by taking ARVs and treatment recommended by an HIV specialist. Muti does not cure HIV. It also doesn’t control your viral load or prevent the virus from being transmitted to your partner or partners and the children they’re carrying if pregnant.


I’ve heard about people whose test results change. Is this possible?

It takes three months for the virus to be detectable in your blood, making it difficult to find if your expose to risk was recent.


Where can I go for an HIV test and how much does it cost?

HIV tests are free at government clinics and hospitals. It is also free at the clinics in the mines.


For more information on HIV, protecting yourself and family from infection and support on living positively with the virus call the National Aids Helpline on 0800 012 322.