HIV – Should I test for it?
In this section of our website, you will find information about HIV, including when you should have a test, where to have sexual health screening in New South Wales, preventative measures you can take to stop infection and/or transmission to others and what living with HIV is like.
What is HIV?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that harms the immune system by destroying the white blood cells that fight infection. This can make a person living with HIV more vulnerable to other infections and health conditions such as cancer.
With medical intervention, HIV can be effectively controlled to keep you healthy and prevent transmission to your partners.
HIV in New South Wales
In the last quarter of 2022, 51 people were diagnosed with HIV in New South Wales. Of those, 84% were preventable and 35% had evidence of late diagnoses.
In that same period, 67% of HIV diagnoses were men who have sex with men (MSM) and 29% were people with heterosexual exposure only (straight).
How is HIV transmitted?
- Anal or vaginal sex without a condom
- Sharing injecting equipment (i.e. needles, syringes and other injecting equipment and drug solutions when injecting drugs) or unsterile tattooing, cutting or piercing equipment
- From mother to child during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding if the mother has undiagnosed or unmedicated HIV
- Through blood transfusions and tissue transplantation that are not subjected to stringent screening and testing
- Through accidental needlestick injuries, such as in a health care setting
You cannot get HIV from hugging, shaking hands, saliva or spit, kissing, mosquitos, sharing food, dishes, cutlery or toilets.
Use a new condom and water-based lubricant every time you have vaginal or anal sex with someone whose HIV status you are unsure of. Condoms also protect you from most other sexually transmitted infections.
If you have recently had unprotected sex with someone whose HIV status you are unsure of, you may be eligible to take PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) within 72 hours of the identified risk. PEP is a month-long course of anti-HIV drugs that can keep HIV from taking hold in your body. PEP can be accessed at any sexual health clinic in New South Wales or alternatively you can attend the emergency department of your local hospital.
If you’re at risk of HIV and want to remain HIV negative, PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a daily medication to protect yourself from acquiring the HIV virus. For furtherinformation on PEP and PrEP, please follow these links:
What if I or my partner is HIV positive?
If you or your sexual partner is HIV positive, HIV transmission can be prevented if the positive partner is on HIV antiretroviral treatment and has an undetectable viral load. Most people will have an undetectable viral load after six months of effective treatment.
When should I test for HIV?
If your last HIV test result was negative, the test was more than one year ago, and you can answer yes to any of the following questions, then you should get an HIV test as soon as possible:
- Are you a man who has had sex with another man?
- Have you had sex - anal or vaginal - with someone who is HIV positive?
- Have you had more than one sex partner since your last HIV test?
- Are you a woman whose male partner is having sex with men?
- Have you injected drugs and shared needles, syringes, or other injection drug equipment with others?
- Have you been diagnosed with, or treated for, another sexually transmitted infection?
- Have you been diagnosed with or treated for hepatitis or tuberculosis (TB)?
- Have you had sex with someone who could answer "yes" to any of the above questions or someone whose sexual history you don't know?
Where can I get tested?
People at risk of HIV can get tested confidentially and easily at their local GP service. GPs can also provide complete screening for all sexually transmitted infections (STIs), cervical screening, contraception, PrEP and other services. Please check whether your GP provides bulk billing to cover testing and other costs. For access to free, confidential and specialised sexual health care, including screening, education and counselling, all men and women, including those without Medicare, can attend sexual health services throughout New South Wales – Sexual Health Centres.
Other services that provide HIV/STI screening and other health care include:
- Youth Clinics
- T150 clinic sexual health for trans and gender diverse people
- Check Out clinic - cervical screening and STI testing for LGBTIQ+ people
- a[TEST] - STI testing service for gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men
- Aboriginal Medical Services
- Women's Health Centres
- Family Planning Clinics
- Dry Blood Spot (DBS) - Free HIV & Hepatitis C test delivered to your home. Available in NSW only.
- Rapid HIV home testing kit - for a cost, available across Australia
Call NSW Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624, if you have questions about what tests you should have, need further information about HIV and other sexually transmitted infections or want to check your risk.