HIV testing is confidential and fast
- You can get an HIV test free of charge at your own health center.
- You should consider getting an HIV test if you have had vaginal or anal intercourse without a condom and you don’t know if your sexual partner has HIV.
- The HIV test can be done through a blood test from your arm, using an HIV rapid test, or a home HIV test.
- You can get an HIV test earliest 4-6 weeks after the risk situation, but a negative test result is only reliable three months after the risk situation.
You cannot know if a person has HIV simply based on their looks or based on symptoms alone. HIV testing is the only way to know if you have HIV. In Finland everyone has the right to be tested for HIV in public health care, where HIV testing and treatment is free. You should be able to get tested simply by asking for a test and no previous assessment by a doctor is needed. Other HIV testing sites include, for example, private medical clinics, occupational health care or organizations, such as Hivpoint and the Finnish Red Cross.
HIV testing anonymously in public health centers
It is possible to get an HIV test anonymously through public health centers. This is done, for example, by creating a temporary personal identity number for the client, used only for the HIV test. You can also get tested for HIV in other cities in Finland, outside your city of residence.
In what situations should I get tested for HIV?
You should get tested if any of these apply to your situation
- If you have had vaginal or anal intercourse without a condom and you do not know if your partner has HIV or not.
- If you have had oral sex and received vaginal secretions, pre-ejaculate or semen in your mouth (and you do not know if your partner has HIV or not).
- If you have used the same injecting equipment with another person.
There is a risk of HIV infection in situations where blood or secretions, such as vaginal secretions or semen enter another person’s mucous membranes or bloodstream. HIV does not transmit easily and the largest risk of infection through sex is in vaginal or anal intercourse without a condom. Oral sex has a very low risk of infection for the person who receives vaginal secretions, pre-ejaculate or semen in the mouth. A person living with HIV, who is on effective HIV medication, cannot infect another person with HIV, even during sex without a condom. Also, if using PrEP, there is no risk for HIV infection during sex without a condom.
When should I get tested for HIV?
You can get an HIV test:
- Earliest 4-6 weeks after exposure to HIV.
- Preferably 3 months or more after exposure to HIV.
You can go for an HIV test at the earliest 4-6 weeks after you may have been exposed to HIV. Almost all HIV infections can be detected as early as two months after exposure to HIV. A negative test result is fully reliable only three months after exposure. HIV tests look for antibodies against HIV in the blood. The human body begins to produce antibodies at its own pace after infection. Therefore, antibodies cannot be found in the test immediately exposure. This is why you can’t get tested for HIV right after unprotected sex.
For the most part, antibodies are visible in the test six weeks after infection. But it may take longer for the antibodies to appear. That is why a negative test result three months after the most recent risk situation is considered reliable. However, you can get tested for HIV as early as 4-6 weeks after exposure. If the result is negative, it should be confirmed with a new test, which is taken after the three months have passed. During this time, we advise to use a condom or dental dam during sex. A lot of water-soluble or silicone-based lubricant should be used together with a condom for anal intercourse.
It is a good idea to get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) regularly if you have an active sex life and several sex partners. In general, getting tested for HIV and other STIs once a year is the responsible thing to do. Not only for your sexual health, but also for your partners’. If you have a lot of unprotected sex with many partners, it might be a good idea to get tested for HIV and other STIs ever three to six months.
Regular HIV and STI testing keeps your mind at ease and helps you take care of your own health. If the HIV test result is positive, it means that you can start treatment and thus keep yourself and your partner healthy.
How is HIV tested?
HIV can be tested through a blood test from your arm, as a rapid HIV test, or a home HIV test. The HIV test is usually done with either a blood test from the arm or a drop of blood from the fingertip. The most commonly used test in Finland is HIV AgAb. This type of test recognizes both the antigen and antibodies in the serum. The result of vein blood tests are developed within a week. The test on the blood from the fingertip can be conducted as a rapid test, which delivers the results in as little as 1 minute.
Home testing of HIV
There are also home tests that can be bought online in the Hivpoint online shop or in pharmacies.
What does a negative test result mean?
A negative result means that no antibodies of the HI virus were found in the blood. In other words, if the test was done after 3 months of the risk situation, a negative result means that the tested person does not have HIV. If the risk situation was less than 3 months before the test, we suggest taking another test once 3 months have passed. This applies to all ways HIV can be tested in, whether you get tested from your fingertip, vein blood or by using a home test.
What does a positive test result mean?
In case the rapid test from the fingertip blood is positive, a vein blood test is taken in order to confirm the result. The results of the confirmation are delivered in about a week. An HIV infection diagnosis can be made only after the confirmation test. A positive test result may cause anxiety or fear. We recommend reaching out to a reliable place for support if needed, such as Hivpoint or the health care system.
The amounts of HI virus in a human’s bodily fluids are particularly high right after transmission, at which point the infection does not yet show in tests. So, it is possible to transmit the disease without one’s knowledge at this stage. Before receiving the final results from the tests, it is important to use a condom, as well as lubricant if necessary, in all sexual contact.