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​An HIV infection causes the body to produce antibodies (an immunological response by the body to fight infection). These antibodies can be picked up by HIV tests to indicate the presence of HIV infection in the person. There are two main ways in which this can be done. Typically, a conventional laboratory-based blood test is administered and the results made available 2 weeks later. 

Since 2007, the Ministry of Health approved a second method of detecting HIV infection – through the use of rapid HIV test kits in clinics for screening. Results of rapid tests can be out in less than 20 minutes. If the rapid test reveals a positive result for HIV however, a confirmatory laboratory blood test is required, and this involves the drawing of a small tube of blood by the doctor.

Currently, seven rapid HIV kits are registered and available at most hospitals and clinics in Singapore. Below is a table summarising the difference between the various HIV tests.

S/N

Registered Test Kit Name
Fluids used for test
Method of testing
1ALERE DETERMINE HIV-1/2 TEST KIT
Blood
Finger prick
2ALERE MEDICAL HIV COMBO
Blood
Finger prick
​3​BIO-RAD GENIE FAST HIV 1/2​Blood​​Finger prick
​4​CELL ID SMART HIV 1/2 RAPID DIAGNOSTIC TEST​Blood​​Finger prick
​5​MP BIOMEDICALS MP DIAGNOSTICS MULTISURE HIV RAPID TEST​Blood​​Finger prick
​6​ORASURE ORAQUICK® RAPID HIV-1/2 ANTIBODY TEST​Oral fluids​Oral swab (between cheek & gum)
​7​STANDARD DIAGNOSTICS SD BIOLINE HIV 1/2 3.0​Blood​​Finger prick

*As with all other screening tests, a positive result needs to be confirmed further by a conventional full blood test like the Western Blot method which uses specialised laboratory testing to detect the virus accurately.

The rapid HIV test kits are not approved for home or self-administration. It must be performed and the results interpreted by a trained personnel.

What are the advantages of a rapid HIV test?

The advantages with the rapid HIV test as compared to the conventional blood tests are:

  • For Orasure Oraquick® Rapid, it is a non-invasive test so no blood sample or needle prick is required. For Alere Determine™ SD Bioline and other blood tests, it only requires a quick prick on the finger for a small amount of blood rather than drawing blood through a needle.

  • The results are known usually within 10-20 minutes; hence the anxiety associated with a long waiting period is avoided.

Should I go for the rapid HIV testing?

A person infected with HIV has no symptoms in the early stages. It may take several years for these symptoms to appear. Getting tested is the only way of knowing if you are currently free from the infection. The test will only determine your status at that point in time, so if you engage in risky sexual behaviour such as unprotected sex following your test, it is time to go for another test. Knowing your HIV status means you can take action to prevent others from being infected and manage your health.

You should get tested if:

  • You have engaged in any sexually risky behaviour in the past, such as having multiple sexual partners, not using condoms consistently, or being serviced by professional sex workers

  • You are not sure of your partner's sexual history

  • You had yourself pierced or tattooed in an unhygienic or unlicensed provider

  • You had a blood transfusion or an operation performed overseas, where blood testing regulatory requirements may not be stringent.

Where can I go for the HIV Rapid Test?

The HIV rapid screening test is available at many clinics and hospitals in Singapore. There are however 10 clinics in Singapore that offer anonymous HIV rapid tests. No personal detail is required when taking the test at these clinics.

The list of anonymous H​IV testing clinics can be found here​.

Does a negative result confirm that I am not infected?

Following an HIV infection, it takes up to 3 months for the antibodies to develop before they can be detected by the rapid test kits. A rapid HIV test performed during this 3-month "window period" may not be able to detect an infection. A second test needs to be performed 3 months after the first test, to confirm the result.

What happens if the test result is positive?

If the result of the rapid HIV screening test is positive, it could indicate that you have been infected with HIV. You will require a confirmatory blood test, such as the Western Blot test, to confirm the result.

What if the confirmatory blood test result is positive too?

A positive confirmatory blood test result indicates that you have been infected with HIV. To find out more about care and support services for people living with HIV, visit Action for AIDS (www.afa.org.sg).

AfA Anonymous HIV Testing Services
31 Kelantan Lane, #01-16, Singapore 200031 (DSC Clinic)
Tel: 62540212
Tue & Wed: 6.30pm to 8:15pm
Sat: 1.30pm to 3.15pm
Public Holidays: Closed
Mobile testing is also available. Refer to website for details.

While there is still no known cure for HIV infection, advancements in medical treatment can help to suppress the virus effectively. If you seek treatment early, you can delay the onset of symptoms and further complications. Early treatment means you can prolong your life, one that is productive and fulfilling.

If you have tested positive, be sure to practise safer sex at all times so that you do not pass on the virus to someone else, especially to someone you love. In Singapore, it is an offence under the Infectious Disease Act for an HIV- infected person to engage in activities that could pass on HIV to another person.