You're worried that you might have contracted HIV or maybe you would just like to Get-Tested regularly for peace of mind. Either way, you've come to the right place - on this page we will explain all of the different HIV testing options available. Before we continue, it is important to remember that STDs do not come in isolation. If you feel you may be at risk of HIV you are at risk for all of the STDs. 70-80% of sexually transmitted infections do not show symptoms until the late stages where they could develop irreversible damage.
Here are your testing options with the pros and cons of each
Price: R1850 per test
Description: The HIV PCR tests directly for HIV genetic material in your blood in the form of either DNA or RNA. It uses the polymerase chain reaction technique to generate multiple copies of any HIV genetic material to make even the slightest amount detectable.
Pros: PCR has one of the lowest window period (period in which no virus is detectable) of all the tests. Some literature claims it can detect the virus within 3 days of infection.
Cons: PCR is one of the most expensive test on offer and takes the longest to get the result. For regular screening purposes it is probably better (and much cheaper) to take one of the other test options.
Price: R500 per test
Description: This test detects HIV antigen and antibodies in your blood using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).
Pros: The ELISA test is the best of both worlds, it is not as costly as the PCR and extremely accurate with misdiagnosis rates quoted at below 1%
Cons: ELISA does still require going to a laboratory and for the blood to be processed formally. Although usually faster than the PCR (results on the same day) there is still a waiting period that can be uncomfortable. The window period is also longer in the ELISA at around 2-4 weeks.
Price: R850 for a STI Testing bundle for 6 STIs including HIV
Description: The rapid test is similar to the ELISA in that it looks for HIV antibody in your blood stream. The test strip is processed during manufacturing to detect these foreign antibodies without the need of any further processing in the lab allowing for near instant results.
Pros: This is the fastest method of knowing your result and can be done in the comforts of your own space. Additionally it is also by far the most affordable test, because of the extensive research done in the field of HIV the accuracy in recent times has also come close to that of the ELISA.
Cons: Whilst the test is extremely reliable and used in many major hospitals as the first choice test, it is still susceptible to errors especially when the reading is positive (false positive). This means that for any positive result the test should be repeated using another rapid test OR any of the other options. Two rapid tests (from different makes) both indicating the same result has shown to be more accurate than an ELISA. Window period is similar to ELISA at 2-4 weeks.
Conclusion: There are many different methods to know your HIV status and there's no better time to know than right now. For screening purposes it is definitely a great choice to start looking at either the rapid or ELISA. Don't forget the rest of the STDs too as they are far more common and as just as destructive when left unchecked.