What is a Rapid test? What does it involve?

  1. A Rapid HIV test uses the same technology as a Standard HIV test, however, results from this test are available within a few minutes after a sample is taken.

  1. The Rapid test uses a blood specimen taken by poking your finger with a lance and then drawing some of this blood into a fine plastic tube. 

  1. Just like a Standard HIV test, the Rapid test looks for the presence of HIV antibodies produced by your immune system in response to HIV in your blood. The Rapid test is just as accurate as a Standard HIV test, but like a Standard test, it can take from 3 weeks to 3 months before antibodies are formed (window period, see below).

  1. The Rapid test tells you if you are HIV positive or negative. If you are negative then you do not require any further tests. If you are positive, then you will need a further blood test using a specimen that needs to be sent to a laboratory.

  1. The Rapid test is a licensed, approved test available in BC but its use is not government funded. It is available at HIM for those who want it. We leave it up to you to consider making a donation for receiving this test at the HIM Sexual Health Centre.

What is a window period? How does it differ across the various HIV tests?

From the moment the HIV virus enters the body, it takes time for the immune system to develop enough HIV antibodies to be measurable by a Standard or Rapid HIV test.  The period of time required for the body to produce enough HIV antibodies to become detectable by a Standard or Rapid HIV test is called the ‘window period’.  Tests currently administered in British Columbia have a ‘window period’ which can last from anywhere between 10-12 days (Early HIV test) up to 3 months (Rapid and Standard Test).