ABC Provides Free and Confidential Testing for HIV
We provide each client with education and counseling sessions, and ensure clients are linked to medical care for the treatment of HIV/STIs, and the initiation of PrEP/PEP.
About This Service
Testing is a crucial part of ABCs approach to reducing new HIV infections and ultimatley ending the HIV epidemic. Knowing one’s HIV status is beneficial for everyone. For people who test HIV positive, they can start anti-HIV medicines to protect their healh and ensure that they can’t transmit the virus to others. For individuals who test HIV negative, they can access various prevention options to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV.
We offer free tests for HIV, there are no income requiremements to obtain these tests. We welcome all people regardless of race, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
Frequently asked questions (drop down for each)
1. Are the terms ‘window period’ and acute HIV infection the same thing?
No. The window period refers to the time taken for a specific HIV assay to detect HIV antibodies following a newly acquired HIV infection. During acute HIV infection, antibody levels are too low to be detected by the assay or are not yet present. Acute HIV infection refers to the individual’s clinical state shortly after acquiring HIV infection. Symptoms may or may not be present at this time. Acute HIV infection is a clinical stage of infection, while the ‘window period’ is a diagnostic time period.
2. Should re-testing be recommended for TB patients and medical inpatients?
Individuals who have TB or other serious medical conditions and test HIV negative are highly likely to be truly HIV negative and do not need re-testing to confirm their initial HIV status. People who are living with HIV often acquire TB and other opportunistic infections due to their weakened immune system; therefore, it is likely that they were infected with HIV some time back. However, persons with TB with high-risk behavior’s should be re-tested according to the recommendations noted in this guidance.
3. Why should pregnant women be tested so frequently for HIV in the context of a generalized epidemic?
The most common risk factor for pregnancy is the same as that for sexual transmission of HIV: having unprotected sex. Re-testing in the third trimester closer to delivery (at or before the 36th week) minimizes the chances of undetected infection being passed on to the baby. Each new pregnancy should be treated the same way.
4. What do I do if the first test is positive (reactive) and the second test is negative (non-reactive)?
Discordant test results may be due to an error in performing the test and therefore repeating the tests immediately can usually resolve the issue. A third assay may be used to provide further information on the status of the individual. However, it is also possible that discordant test results can be due to an undetectable or a low level of antibodies as a result of an AHI. This can lead to one test being reactive (positive) but not both. It is highly likely that both assays will show reactive (and therefore positive) results within two weeks if the individual is infected with HIV.
5. Why do we have different recommendations based on the type of epidemic and/or type of setting?
The two tables given in Annex 1 distinguish between epidemic type and clinic setting as well as HIV testing scenario. In a low-level HIV epidemic, the probability of an individual who tests negative having an acute HIV infection are extremely low. However, in all types of epidemics and in settings with a higher HIV prevalence, it has been noted that high-risk groups such as sex workers, persons who inject drugs or men who have sex with men have a greater likelihood of being in the “window period”, and different re-testing recommendations are warranted.
6. In high-prevalence settings, should I recommend re-testing to individuals who do not know their partner's HIV status every three months?
No, but annual testing and counselling is recommended for these persons.
7. What if the HIV assay's results are inconclusive or uncertain, such as a faint line?
Some HIV assays are designed such that any line in the test strip, no matter how faint, should be interpreted as reactive. It is important for HIV testing and counselling service providers to closely follow the HIV test kit package insert outlining the manufacturer’s instructions on how to interpret the test results. If the test kit instructions do not clarify what to do with a faint test strip line, then the next step is to confirm that the test kits have not expired, that the storage conditions are optimal and that the proper testing protocol has been followed, and then test the individual again immediately with the same assay, strictly following standard operating procedures. If immediate repeat testing then leads to inconclusive test results, the individual or a specimen from the individual may need to be referred to another testing site (usually a laboratory) for further HIV testing.
8. Why should only new clients or patients be re-tested?
Re-testing is not recommended for persons with no known incident of exposure to HIV in the past three months or in those with no ongoing HIV risk. For persons with a recent incident of potential exposure, it may be necessary to re-test after four weeks to allow new clients/patients to be sure of their status.
9. What is the difference between a specific incident of HIV exposure and ongoing or continuing risk behavior?
A specific incident is an isolated event such as a burst condom for someone who always uses condoms consistently. Other examples of isolated incidents are sexual violence/rape and needle-stick injuries. Ongoing or continuing risk behaviour refers to behaviours that place persons at risk of acquiring HIV. One such example is the inconsistent use or non-use of condoms, or the sharing of injection equipment. Such behaviours have been found to be more likely to lead to acquiring and transmitting HIV.
10. Why should persons with continuing or ongoing risk behaviors be tested at least annually?
While testing is an important element of HIV prevention, it is only one aspect of a comprehensive package of services for preventing HIV transmission. In CITC settings, testing must include prevention counselling tailored to the needs of the individual and formulation of a risk reduction plan, particularly for persons with ongoing risk behaviours. In PITC settings, prevention counselling may be brief, but persons with ongoing risk behaviours should be referred to another HIV testing and counselling site for prevention counselling, or on-site if these services exist. Rather than more frequent re-testing, annual testing is recommended to ensure that the greatest proportion of high-risk individuals who newly acquire HIV each year learn their status and are referred to HIV care services. If an individual wishes to be tested sooner, then testing should be provided. Individuals should also be encouraged to return for continued prevention counselling as often as needed and, where available, offered effective prevention interventions. Furthermore, HIV testing and counselling programmes should refer individuals to other prevention services in the community, as appropriate.