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Information About Testing

Importance/benefits of HIV antibody testing

  • end anxiety of not knowing
  • to use information learned to take steps to live healthier
  • to gain knowledge of how to access medical care and treatment if necessary



ELISA Test - a screening test for HIV antibodies

WESTERN BLOT Test - if a test is positive on the ELISA screen, they are re-tested to confirm it is really positive.


HIV Testing Options 

HIV tests can be ordered by physicians, nurse practitioners and midwives.

People have three testing and reporting options:

  • Anonymous Testing – the name of identity of the person being tested is not requested, recorded or reported.  The test is ordered using a code known only to the person being tested.  The test is ordered using a code known only to the person being tested.
  • Non-nominal Testing – the practitioner ordering the test knows the name of identity of the person being tested, but orders the test using a code.  If the test is positive, the laboratory is required to report the result to the local medical officer of health.
  • Nominal Testing – the practitioner orders the test using the person’s name.  If the test is positive, the laboratory is required to report the result to the local medical officer of health.

Pretest Counselling

  • Provides basic information about HIV
  • Discusses symptoms associated with HIV and that HIV does not mean a person has AIDS
  • Explains that the test identifies antibodies to HIV - not the virus itself
  • Explains the length of time it will take to get the test results
  • Explains that a positive test result means the person is infected with HIV and is able to infect others
  • Explains that a negative test result means the person either is not infected or has not yet developed antibodies.
  • Encourages the person to ask questions about both HIV and the test

After providing general background information:

  • Explores with the person why he or she wants to be tested;
  • Tries to determine if the person is at risk and if testing is appropriate by openly discussing sexual and drug use practices.

 If the person decides there may be a need to be tested, then:

  • Explores benefits of being tested;
  • Explores the risks and harms of being tested and being found positive;
  • Explains the three types of HIV testing available in Ontario - anonymous, non-nominal and nominal - and the advantages and disadvantages of each;
  • Encourages questions

Posttest Counselling
If the test is negative:

  • Encourages repeated testing if necessary - high risk activity within the last 6 months of possible exposure
  • Safer sex information review and handouts
  • Reinforces avoiding high-risk activities

If the test is positive:

  • Talks about their reaction if they wish to. ie. Are you alright at this moment. Is there any service you can provide or refer them to?
  • Asks about living conditions and finances. Directs to the agencies that will provide clients with their needs.
  • Deals with issues important to the infected person
  • Discusses partner notification - not necessarily right away (by self or with help)
  • Reinforces avoiding high-risk activities
  • Discusses follow-up for medical treatment and counselling, if requested


Point of Care HIV Testing:  is done by pricking your finger and testing your blood while you wait.  If you test negative – that is, the point of care test says you are not infected – you receive your results immediately.  If you test reactive – that is, the result of the point of care test is not certain – the clinic will take a blood sample and send it to the public health laboratory for standard testing.  It can take up to two weeks to get the final results, and you will have to return to the clinic to get your results.  Point of care HIV testing is available free at 60 sites across Ontario, including all anonymous HIV testing sites, some public health units’ sexually transmitted infections clinics and some community health centres.  For information on a Point of Care testing site nearest you, call the AIDS Hotline at:  1-800-668-2437


Prenatal HIV Testing Program:  All pregnant women in Ontario are offered HIV testing as part of their pre-natal care.  When pregnant women with HIV are diagnosed early, they can receive treatment for themselves and treatment for their babies.  With prenatal testing and treatment, fewer than two per cent of babies born to women with HIV are infected. 


Where to get tested:
To find anonymous HIV testing sites in Ontario call: