South Africa has a high HIV prevalence which means that any condomless sex carries the risk of contracting HIV as well as STIs. These risks increase if you have concurrent sexual partners. Penetrative anal sex is riskier than penetrative vaginal sex. If you are HIV negative and are unsure of your partner’s status, always use a condom.
To protect yourself, you should also find out if your partner is HIV negative or positive. You may consider going on to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) in order to protect yourself from HIV. To get onto PrEP, you can consult with a healthcare worker at your nearest clinic.
When to Get Tested
It is good health practice to test for HIV and STIs on a regular basis. Free tests are available at one of our dedicated facilities. After possible exposure to HIV, there is a six-week window period during which the HIV virus can manifest. If at first you test negative, you must get tested again after the window period.
How the HIV Test Works
Testing for HIV is a simple process and usually involves taking a small sample of blood. Some HIV tests will give a result within 20 minutes and other tests are sent to a lab so it may take longer to get your results. Before you test, your healthcare worker will talk to you about your sexual health, why you’ve decided to test, and any risks you may have taken. Remember, the healthcare professional is not there to judge you. There is nothing you can say that they haven’t heard from someone else. Be honest with them, and ask as many questions as you want – they are there for you and will patiently listen to any concerns that you have and answer all of your questions. All HIV testing is 100% confidential and takes place in a non-discriminatory environment.
HIV testing should:
- Involve your full consent.
- Be 100% confidential.
- Give you an opportunity to speak to a professional about what’s involved.
- Give you a positive or negative result.
- Depending on your results, give you information on further treatment or prevention services.
Testing HIV Positive
If you test positive for HIV, your healthcare worker will counsel you on what the next steps are. Receiving a positive diagnosis can be a traumatic and emotional experience and this reaction is completely normal. The healthcare worker is there to support you and to answer any questions that you have. Treatment means that HIV is now a manageable illness. Your healthcare provider can link you to support services and ART treatment. Your test result will remain 100% confidential and the only people who know will be you and the medical professionals involved in your care and treatment. Your healthcare worker or counsellor can advise you of your rights and on how to tell other people if and when you are ready.
Testing HIV Negative
If you have tested negative for HIV, the most important thing is staying negative. Your healthcare worker will explain that you need to protect yourself during sex by using condoms. They will also advise on you on the use of PrEP. You will still need to have regular tests for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you’ve taken an HIV test within the window period since exposure, you must test again after 3 months. If you’ve had unprotected sex since your last HIV test you will also have to test again!
If you have tested positive for HIV, you will be provided with antiretroviral therapy (ART) immediately. ART is the use of HIV medicines to treat HIV infection. ART is recommended for everyone who has HIV. ART can’t cure HIV, but HIV medicines help people with HIV live longer, healthier lives. ART also reduces the risk of HIV transmission. Your healthcare worker will provide you with the medication and will inform you of how to take it. You must adhere to your treatment and stay on the ART.
Counselling & Support
There are numerous organisations nationwide that provide counselling and wellness services for MSM. If you need psychological support or assistance with family counselling, contact us so that we can link you to your nearest counselling and wellness healthcare provider.