Testing is a very effective way to take care of your sexual health and that of your partner(s) as well.
In Quebec, any man who is gay, bisexual, trans, or occasionally has sex with men is advised to get tested at least once a year. If you have multiple partners, getting tested every 3 to 6 months is a good way to keep track of your health with respect to HIV and other STBBIs. If you’re living with HIV and have more than 3 partners per year, getting tested for STBBIs every 3 to 6 months is recommended. To find out how often to get tested, use the Take the Test tool that can be found in the column on the right-hand side of this page.
Remember that HIV testing can only detect whether you have been infected with the virus after a certain period of time has passed. This is referred to as the window period. This period can vary between a few days and a few months, depending on how your body responds to the infection. Your doctor or nurse will evaluate your situation and let you know when you should come back for another test if necessary.
In Quebec, testing and follow-up services are available at community-based clinics, specialized medical clinics and CLSCs. If you have concerns that healthcare professionals might make judgments about you or treat you with a lack of respect, contact your local HIV organization. They should be able to either accompany you or refer you to a healthcare professional with a good reputation for treating all people with respect.
You need to present your provincial health insurance card when you get tested for HIV or other STBBIs. Testing is free, but in certain clinics you may be asked to pay a fee for transporting samples to the lab.
You can also get in touch with your regional HIV organization. They will direct you to healthcare professionals who will treat you with respect. Enter your postal code here to find an HIV organization in your region.
Anonymous HIV testing
It’s possible to get tested anonymously for HIV without having to provide your name or health insurance card. Anonymous testing is only available at selected CLSCs through a service called SIDEP (Integrated screening and prevention services for HIV and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections). It’s important to note that if the test comes back positive, you will be referred to a regular healthcare provider for follow-up care which cannot be done anonymously.
Anonymous testing is not offered automatically, so you’ll need to ask for it when you make your appointment.
Whether or not you get tested anonymously, your doctor is required to respect your confidentiality and cannot share your results with another person without your consent.
Rapid HIV testing
There is also the option of having a rapid HIV test, which means you’ll get your test results during the same visit. This test isn’t available everywhere, and in some cases you may have to pay a fee to have a rapid test. If you’re interested in this option, ask about it at your clinic.
What happens during the appointment?
You will generally have to meet with a doctor or a nurse. Before taking the necessary samples, they will usually ask you a few questions to determine which tests to perform. You might feel hesitant to talk about the number of sexual partners you’ve had or the type of sexual activities you’ve engaged in. Rest assured that anything you say during an appointment with a healthcare professional will remain confidential. The more specific the information you share with the doctor or nurse, the better they will be able to assess which tests are needed.
The doctor or nurse will then proceed with taking the samples that are required. This will usually involve taking samples of blood and urine along with swabs from the penis, throat, or anus.
The test results will usually be given to you by phone, with the exception of HIV where a second visit to the doctor’s office is required to get your results.
What if I don't have a health insurance card?
You generally need a health insurance card to get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs).
If you don’t have a health insurance card, don’t hesitate to go to your nearest CLSC. Many CLSCs will see you even without a health insurance card. In addition, they can tell you what you need to do to get one.
Anonymous HIV testing is another possibility, since it doesn’t require you to present a health insurance card or any other piece of ID. This service is offered in at least one CLSC in each administrative region of Quebec. Anonymous testing isn’t offered on an automatic basis, so you’ll need to ask for it when you make your appointment.
You can also contact your local HIV organization for assistance.
HIV self-testing is another option you might have heard of. Home tests are generally sold in pharmacies and are similar to home pregnancy tests. These tests are now available in many countries including the United States and France, but are not yet available in Canada. It’s not recommended to buy HIV home tests online because it can be difficult to know whether the test is reliable or defective.
Where to get tested
To find places near you where you can go to get tested, you can do a search by postal code.
Some HIV community organizations also offer testing. Here’s a partial list:
Testing and vaccination clinic and testing-related support services
514 521 7778
Testing clinic operated in collaboration with the CLSC St-Léonard / St-Michel
514 722 5655
By appointment only
514-527-9565, ext. 1661
514 524 1001
514 285 5500
514 787 6787 (OPUS)
514 252 3814
418 649 1720
819 823 6704
Centre sida Amitié, Saint-Jérôme
450 431 6536
Sidaction Mauricie, Trois-Rivières
819 374 5740
Saguenay – Lac-St-Jean
Le MIENS-Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean, Chicoutimi
418 693 8983 / 1 800 463 3764
The CLSC also offers testing to men who have sex with men through a service called SIDEP (Integrated screening and prevention services for HIV and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections). Every administrative region of Quebec is required to offer HIV and STBBI testing services. This service is generally offered at one or more CLSCs in the region.