5 Things to Know about HIV Self-Test Kits

5 Things to Know about HIV Self-Test Kits

HIV self-test kits are now available in Canada! These kits provide a simple and convenient way to know your status, making it easier to be proactive about your sexual health through early detection and treatment. They’re a game changer when it comes to HIV prevention.  

The only way to know whether or not you have HIV is to get tested. Knowing your status not only gives you peace of mind, but up-to-date information to help you take the steps you need to keep you and your sexual partner(s) healthy. So, let’s look at 5 things you should know about this easy and convenient testing option.

What are the benefits of self-testing?  

Some people may be hesitant to get tested for HIV because of privacy concerns, fear of stigma, or simply not knowing where to go. Some of the benefits of self-testing include:

  • Privacy: HIV self-test kits offer a discreet way to check your HIV status from the comfort of your home (or any other private space). For some, this may eliminate concerns about in-person visits. Just be sure to dispose of the packaging discreetly to ensure your test remains private.
  • Convenience: You can take the self-test anytime, anywhere. This allows people to test when it’s convenient for them without having to book an appointment or visit a healthcare facility. Kits can be mailed directly to your home (or to someone you know) or picked up at a local org at a major city near you.
  • Quick Results: Self-testing usually takes less than 5 minutes, including getting the results. For some, this may be peace of mind rather than waiting two weeks for a lab test result. And remember, early detection is crucial for HIV. Getting quick results means someone can access the supports and treatment they need early on.

Image of the INSTI HIV Home Test Kit
(Image taken from:

How do HIV self-test kits work?

HIV self-test kits work by screening for HIV antibodies in the blood. The kits include detailed instructions, a lancet (or finger prick) for taking a blood sample, 3 different coloured bottles with liquid inside (labelled #1, #2, and #3), a bandage, and a test strip device.

The process is pretty simple and involves pricking your finger, placing a drop of blood into bottle #1 and mixing it, then pouring the liquid from all 3 bottles onto the test strip one at a time until the liquid has disappeared. Results appear right away. You can watch a video with detailed instructions here.

The HIV antibodies detector in the INSTI HIV Self Test Kit
(Image taken from:

What is a negative result?

If your self-test result is negative, it means that no HIV antibodies were detected in your blood sample. Remember, it can take anywhere between 21 days to 3 months before HIV antibodies show up on a test, called the window period. If there is a chance you may have come into contact with HIV in the last 3 months, it is recommended to test again 3 months after your last possible exposure.

What is a positive result?

If your self-test result is positive, it likely means that you have HIV but this needs to be confirmed through a standard lab test. You will need to see your doctor or go to a local testing centre to schedule a lab test to confirm.

This may be a good time to reach out to someone you trust for support or link up with a peer living with HIV to help you navigate this process. You can get support before, during or after you test through the I AM Initiative, either in-person, online or by phone.

Remember, HIV is 100% treatable. People living with HIV are living long, healthy and fulfilling lives! For most people living with HIV who take their medications as prescribed, it can reduce the amount of the virus in their blood to a level so low that it can’t be detected on a blood test, called an undetectable viral load.

When a person’s viral load is undetectable, they CANNOT pass on HIV to others through sex. In other words, Undetectable = Untransmittable, or U=U.  

U=U is revolutionary because it changes how people living with HIV can date, hook up and love - offering the same sexual and social freedoms that HIV-negative people have.

Where can I get HIV-Self Test Kits?

You can order HIV self-test kits for free through the I AM Initiative, the CATIE Ordering Centre, or through the CBRC's Test@Home program. Kits can be mailed to anywhere in Canada and come in discreet unmarked packages.  

Kits are also available for easy pick up at community health centres in major cities across Canada. To find a location near you, enter your city here.

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