The HIV self-test is a test you do yourself. No need for an appointment with a health professional and no need for a medical prescription.
What is the self-test?
The INSTI® HIV self-test analyzes a drop of your blood and gives you a result within one minute.
You can perform this test alone at home or with a friend. You can also be accompanied by a support worker from within Québec’s network of HIV community organizations. Just contact the HIV community organization closest to you to find out what kind of assistance you can get.
This test is only valid for HIV. It does not diagnose other STBBIs, such as gonorrhea or syphilis.
How does it work?
The self-test kit comes with a detailed instruction booklet with illustrations. It also provides you with a QR code so you can watch a video that explains the instructions for using the kit.
How to take the test:
- Begin by washing and drying your hands.
- Prick the end of your finger with the tool, called a lancet, to get a drop of blood.
- Add the drop of blood to Bottle 1 (the little red bottle), making sure your finger doesn’t touch the bottle.
- Put on the cap and shake the bottle. Pour the content into the container provided for the test, and wait for the liquid to disappear. This takes a few seconds.
- Take Bottle 2 (the little blue bottle) and shake it. Pour the contents into the same container and wait a few seconds for the liquid to disappear.
- Take Bottle 3 (the little grey bottle) and shake it. Pour the contents into the same container and wait a few seconds for the liquid to disappear.
This process lets you detect what we call HIV antibodies. These antibodies defend the body against the virus from the moment infection begins. However, it may take three to 12 weeks (21 to 84 days) before the body produces enough antibodies for the self-test to detect.
How do you interpret the results?
One single blue dot at the top of the circle
If there’s only one blue dot at the top of the circle, the test is considered non-reactive. That means it has not detected the presence of HIV antibodies and your result is negative.
Two blue dots
If there are two blue dots, the test is reactive. That means the test has detected the presence of HIV antibodies, and your test result is positive. If you get a positive test result, you need to see a health professional to get retested using a blood draw in order to confirm the test results.
No dots, or one single dot at the bottom of the circle
Sometimes, no dots appear, or only one dot appears, at the bottom of the circle. In these cases, the test is invalid. If that happens, don’t re-use the kit, because it’s only meant for single use. To redo the test and get a valid result, you need to get a new self-test kit.
Regardless of the result, don’t re-use the test. It’s a single-use test.
What is the window period?
You may have heard about the “window period.” This is the time that needs to pass before a test can detect the presence of HIV in the blood. Once HIV enters the body and begins to infect its cells, it can be detected in some cases after three weeks, but it may also take as long as 12 weeks after infection before HIV becomes detectable by a test.
To better explain: If you’re exposed to HIV (say, on June 1), you need to wait for three weeks before using the self-test (starting on June 22). If the result is negative, it’s best to redo the test nine weeks later (around August 24), using a new kit, in order to confirm the result.
If the self-test result is positive, you don’t need to do a second self-test. Make an appointment to get a confirmation test, meaning a blood draw that confirms the diagnosis.
Probable exposures include:
- Anal, frontal and vaginal sex without a condom with an HIV-positive partner whose viral load is detectable, or with a partner of unknown HIV status;
- Sharing drug injection equipment.
How can you get an HIV self-test kit?
To get the INSTI® HIV self-test kit, you need to order it directly from the website of bioLytical Laboratories, the company that makes the test.
It costs about $35 per test, plus shipping and sales tax, for a total amount of about $57. For two tests, the cost is about $85 including shipping and taxes.
To order an INSTI® self-test, click here.
The kit can be delivered to the mailing address of your choice.
If for any reason you can’t order the kit online, contact the HIV community organization closest to you so they can help you find a solution.
To find an HIV community organization, use the postal code search tool.
Should you do it alone or with someone?
The HIV self-test gives you the advantage of being able to decide if you want to do it alone at home or with a trusted friend.
You can also be accompanied by a community worker. He or she can guide you in performing the test and interpreting the results, and, if you want, can provide you with support after you’ve taken the test.
The accompaniment methods (online, by text message, on the phone or in person) may differ from one organization to the next.
To find someone to accompany you, use the postal code search tool to find the HIV community resources closest to you.
What are the advantages of the self-test kit?
There are lots of good reasons to use the HIV self-test kit. The self-test…
- Is easy to use.
- Is safe.
- Ensures confidentiality.
- Gives you a result one minute after you perform the test.
What are the issues?
While there are many benefits to the HIV self-test kit, issues remain:
- Because of the cost, not everyone can afford it.
- The self-test kit is available online only. That means you need to have access to a computer, an internet connection, a credit card and a mailing address.
A blood self-test or an oral self-test?
Soon, you’ll be able to choose between a blood self-test and an oral self-test. Oral self-tests are waiting for approval from the Canadian health authorities. This test, which is called OraQuick®, is done using saliva.