HIV testing

HIV is relatively common among gay men and other men who have sex with men. That means you have a greater chance of getting HIV. Do you think you haven't run ANY risks? Prove that to yourself! Get yourself tested for HIV and other STIs every three to six months.

Overview of advice about testing 

  • Always go to see your doctor or go to an STI clinic any time you have symptoms or have been notified by a sex partner.
  • Do you think you haven't run ANY risks? Make it a point to get tested for HIV and STIs every three to six months to prove it to yourself.
  • Have you run a risk but you are too late for treatment with PEP? Be alert to any symptoms of HIV in the next two months.
  • If you do notice any symptoms, get yourself tested for HIV immediately by your doctor or at the STI clinic. Mention that you think you might have an acute HIV infection.
  • If you have symptoms, don't do a rapid HIV test. That kind of test is not reliable enough to show an HIV infection in the earliest stage. Are you noticing symptoms of HIV within two weeks of having run a risk?  Ask for an RNA test.
  • If you have had risky sex, get tested for HIV and STIs six weeks after it happened in any case. As a double check, get tested for HIV and STIs once again after 12 weeks (three months) from the moment you had risky sex.
  • Be very strict about using condoms. Especially in the earliest stage of an HIV infection you will be extremely infectious for others.
  • Did the results show that you do not have HIV or some other STI? Keep getting yourself tested on a regular basis, for example via Testlab.

Why get tested for HIV?

  • HIV is common among men who have sex with men.
  • Your intestines are more vulnerable to HIV than a vagina is, for example. In short, anal sex is very risky in terms of HIV.  
  • HIV does not always have symptoms. You could have HIV and pass it on to others without realising it.
  • The earlier you know that you have HIV, the earlier you can start getting treatment. That will be better for your health in the longer term. 
  • Even if you always fuck with condoms, you can still get HIV:  
    - HIV can also be transmitted via fingers or sex toys that have sperm, precum (preseminal fluid) or blood on them.
    - As the “bottom” you might not notice that the condom has broken or slid off.
    - You might not notice that your sex partner has come in your mouth.

When to take which HIV test?

Depending on when you have run a risk in terms of HIV, different types of tests are suitable for detecting HIV.

  • Ask for a standard HIV test since that will show not only antibodies, but also the p24 protein shell around the virus, which can be detected earlier. While a rapid HIV test can show antibodies, it is not sensitive enough to show that protein shell around the virus.
  • If you already notice symptoms of an HIV infection within two weeks after having had risky sex, ask to have an RNA test in addition to the standard HIV test.  An RNA test can show a very early infection (7 to 16 days after exposure to the virus).  In contrast, the standard HIV test is often unable to show HIV in the first 16 days after a possible infection. 
  • Have you run a potential risk but you don't have any symptoms? To be sure, get yourself tested six weeks after the moment you ran the risk of getting HIV. Then take another test after 12 weeks (three months). If you are still HIV negative at that point, you will know for sure that you did not get HIV.

Where to get tested?

You can arrange for testing for HIV and STIs through your own doctor, through an STI clinic or through Testlab. It won't cost you anything to get tested at an STI clinic or via Testlab. Depending on the type of health insurance you have, you may have to pay for STI testing if you do that through your own doctor, however. Do you live in the area around Amsterdam, Rotterdam-Rijnmond or The Hague (Haaglanden), or do you live in Groningen, Drenthe or Friesland?  In that case you can easily schedule your STI test online via Testlab.

Testlab is not suitable:

  • if you already have symptoms of an STI or HIV, or
  • if you have been notified by a sex partner that he has an STI or HIV.

In that case, it is faster to go to your own doctor or to an STI clinic to get tested and receive treatment.

“I haven't run any risks.”

If you think you haven't run ANY risks, prove that to yourself. Have a test done at least every six months to confirm that you don't have HIV. Do that in the same way that you would go to the dentist to make sure you haven't developed any cavities. You can arrange for testing via Testlab, for example. If you live in or near Amsterdam or Rotterdam, you can also order a reliable HIV test delivered to your home via www.time2test.nl .

 

 

“What should I pay attention to in case I have run a risk?”

Do you think – or know for sure – that you have run a risk of getting HIV, for example:

  • because you didn't use condoms?
  • because the condom broke or slid off?
  • because you got sperm in your mouth or in your anus?

And did that happen less than 72 hours ago? Taking PEP after you have had risky sex can prevent an HIV infection. In that case, go to the GGD or to a hospital emergency room to ask for treatment with PEP – preferably within two hours but definitely within 72 hours of the moment you had the risky sex.

Are you too late for treatment with PEP?

  • Be alert to flu-like symptoms that could point to an HIV infection, such as fever, diarrhea or skin rashes. These symptoms normally appear two to eight weeks after an infection with HIV. If you get any symptoms, get tested immediately.
  • Tell your doctor or the nurse at the STI clinic that you think you might have an acute HIV infection.
  • Keep using condoms. If you have indeed been infected with HIV, you will be extremely contagious – especially in the beginning – for anyone you have sex with.

 

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