HIV Testing

Did you know? It is estimated that in 2011, 1 in 4 people living with HIV in Canada were unaware of their infection.

It is important to be tested for HIV so that you can know your status – whether positive or negative!

Where can I get tested?

5 Things You Should Know about HIV Testing in Saskatchewan

  • In Saskatchewan, it is recommended that HIV testing be provided to people  close to their home community. You can get tested for HIV no matter where you live in the north. There are many locations where you can get tested and get information about HIV and AIDS. There are also many places outside the north where you can get tested if you do not want to be tested close to home.
  • To find free testing download the Health Is Vital App for your Apple or Android device or visit the clinic nearest you.

How does the HIV test work?

The tests look for markers in your body that show that you been infected by HIV.

They can look for:

  1. Antibodies (proteins produced by the body’s immune system when it detects harmful substances to try and destroy them)
  2. Antigen (a foreign substance such as a virus, bacteria or pollen, that causes your body’s immune system to produce antibodies against it)
  3. Genetic material of the HIV

What happens after I am tested?

  • If you are tested in the north, test results may take about 1 week to return. Sometimes it can be longer. Your results will be sent to the health care provider who tested you.
  • Your physician or nurse will call you back to discuss your results.

HIV 1 in 4

What about rapid HIV testing?

  •  Rapid HIV tests are also sometimes called Point of Care (POC) tests. They are blood tests that can test for HIV and provide results within minutes.
  • Rapid HIV tests are available in the large health centres in Northern Saskatchewan. They are typically used in situations where the HIV test result is required urgently such as when a woman is in labour and her HIV results are unknown, or if there has been an accidental needlestick injury. In those types of situations, the doctor requires results right away to help them to determine the treatment that is required.
  • The rapid tests are highly accurate but because there is a small chance of getting a false negative or false positive result, they are also sent for confirmatory testing.

What does a negative result mean?

  • A negative test means that the test did not find markers of HIV infection in your blood.
  • Your health care provider will talk with you about when you should have your next routine test.
  • Sometimes they may recommend that you get the test repeated depending on your circumstances.
  • Your health care provider can also talk to you about ways to help you stay negative.

What does a positive HIV test mean?

  • A positive test means that you have been exposed to and infected with HIV. The test has found markers of HIV infection in your blood.  If the first test result is positive, it is automatically sent for additional confirmation at the Saskatchewan Disease Control Laboratory.
  • The test does not tell when you when you became infected or when you will get sick.
  • Positive results are kept confidential. Access to your results is strictly controlled by law.
  • You will be offered information and supports to help deal with your diagnosis, follow-up care and treatment.
  • Your physician or nurse can discuss with you about who needs to know about your results.
  • They can also help to get your current and past sexual or drug use partners test for HIV, while keeping your results and identity confidential.

HIV Testing in Pregnancy

All pregnant women in Saskatchewan are routinely tested for HIV by their physician or nurse when they come for prenatal clinic visits.

How Will a Positive Test Result Affect the Mother and the Baby?

Women living with HIV can have healthy babies. Women living with HIV who do not receive treatment have a 25% chance of passing HIV to their babies. With proper care and treatment, the risk of transmission of HIV can be reduced to less than 2%. Testing for HIV during pregnancy can help women to get earlier treatment and learn how to manage their disease.

Women who are HIV positive and pregnant, or are considering getting pregnant, are faced with many challenges. It is important to find a health care professional who is supportive and knowledgeable about HIV and pregnancy. This will result in the best care being given to the mother and baby.