What to Expect When Getting Tested

Testing for HIV at Your Health Unit:

  • You don’t need to bring a health card to be tested at your health unit.
  • Your local health unit provides HIV testing by taking some of your blood, which is sent to a laboratory. Results should come back within 2 weeks. 
  • Testing at health units is confidential, not anonymous. This means your results stay between you and your nurse, but your results are reported to the public health database. Reporting your HIV status is what allows you to get a doctor experienced in providing HIV care. It is an important next step in keeping you healthy for a long time. 

HIV Testing at Options Clinic or at Other Anonymous Testing Clinics:

Options provides anonymous testing with results on the spot. This is called rapid point-of-care testing. 

  • You don’t need your health card.
  • You don’t have to give your real name. This is what anonymous means.
  • A small amount of blood will be taken by pricking your finger.
  • The test takes about 20 minutes to get a result.
  • If the rapid point-of-care test shows a positive result, meaning that it detects HIV antibodies, the clinician at Options will take more blood to send off to a laboratory to confirm the result. It takes about two weeks for that result to come in.

What is the HIV antibody test?

The HIV antibody test checks your blood to see if your immune system has produced HIV antibodies. If antibodies are present, it means you have been infected with HIV. Because HIV is a retrovirus, these antibodies are powerless in fighting off HIV, but their presence is enough to tell if you have HIV or not.

A positive test only tells you that you are living with HIV. It does not tell you how much virus is in your body, when you were infected or whether or not you’ll get sick.

Getting tested for HIV relieves feelings of uncertainty and gives you a chance to learn about HIV and sexual risk reduction from a trained counselor. If you test positive, getting tested is the first step in taking control so you can keep yourself healthy.

Watch this video to see what a rapid point-of-care test is like. 

If you'd like more information about getting tested for HIV or to talk to someone who knows what it is like, contact a member of our Education team.

Getting Tested for Hepatitis C:

The only way to know if you have hep C is to have several blood tests done.

  • HCV antibody test: This looks for antibodies in the blood.  If you test positive, you have been exposed to hep C in the past and will have antibodies for the rest of your life. You need a second test to find out if the virus is still active in your body.
  • PCR test: This test is done after a positive antibody test. If it is positive, you have hep C.
  • Viral load test: This test tells you how much virus you have in your blood. 
  • Genotype test: This test checks to see which of the six hepatitis C genotypes you have. A genotype is a type of hep C. 

The PCR, viral load and genotype tests are all done at the same time. Other tests might be done to show how your liver is working. These include: liver function tests, a biopsy and an ultrasound.

When results are positive from the hepatitis C screening test, additional testing to measure hepatitis C RNA is required. Hep C PCR testing is a measure of active virus detected in the blood. Depending upon the result, this test may be repeated after 3 months.

Most test results should return approximately one week after testing. The clinic will ask you to return for the results. If you are unable to return, the clinic can make other arrangements.

If you are concerned about hepatitis C and would like to talk to someone before you decide to get tested, contact one of our hep C team members in Client Services.