HIV point of care testing

Point of care testing for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is quick and convenient, providing results in 20 minutes. Point of care testing is commonly known as ‘rapid testing’. Rapid HIV testing differs from conventional laboratory testing because it is conducted on the spot and the results given in the same appointment. A reactive (positive) result is only preliminary and must be followed-up by confirmatory blood tests in a laboratory.

Where to get tested

SHINE SA’s Rapido Clinic offers free rapid HIV testing for gay men, men who have sex with men (MSM) and trans and gender diverse people. The clinic is staffed by trained peer testers and a sexual health nurse. The test process involves a peer tester taking a finger-prick blood sample, and all clients are offered a voluntary full sexual health screen and confirmatory blood test while waiting for their test results.

Visit the Rapido Clinic page on the SHINE SA website for more information.

When to be tested

The rapid HIV test cannot detect infection in the acute phase of HIV, or 'window period' (6-12 weeks post-infection). Standard HIV testing (where blood is sent to a laboratory) is more likely to detect infection during this time. Either test should be repeated 6-12 weeks after a high-risk exposure (depending on the test used).

If you think you may have had a recent exposure to HIV, contact the 24 hour a day HIV Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) hotline on 1800 022 226.

For more information about PEP visit the HIV PEP page.

Information for clinicians

Point of care tests for HIV are not generally recommended for populations with low HIV prevalence, as point of care tests will give higher rates of false-positive results for these populations. In Australia, point of care/rapid HIV testing is predominantly targeted to gay men and other men who have sex with men.

More information on HIV testing for clinicians, including point of care testing, can be found in the National HIV Testing Policy.

Self-testing for HIV

HIV self-testing (also known as home-based testing) is where HIV testing is conducted in the home or similar environment. These tests use the same technology as rapid HIV tests, requiring a finger-prick blood test. The result is provided within 15 minutes. 

There is currently only one HIV self-test approved for sale in Australia (approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for sale in Australia in November 2018). It is important to only use devices approved for sale, so that you can be sure the result is accurate and that the device is safe to use.

For more information, the Health Equity Matters (formerly known as AFAO) has produced an HIV Self-test Fact Sheet (PDF 102KB).