You can request a Point-of-Care HIV test by appointment or by presenting to the participating pharmacy during advertised HIV testing walk-in hours. At the pharmacy, ask for your free HIV test either directly at the pharmacy counter or by passing a handwritten note to the pharmacist.

The pharmacist will then bring you to a private counselling room where you will be screened for pilot eligibility, provided information about the pilot, and asked to provide informed verbal consent for HIV testing and participation in the pilot project. You can choose to withdraw your consent anytime before the test is performed.

 As part of pre-test counseling, the pharmacist will provide you with basic information about HIV, explain the possible POC test results and next steps depending on the result of your test.

If in our discussions today, we determine that you have had a high-risk exposure to HIV, it is recommended that you be tested 3 weeks, six weeks and three months after that exposure. In the first 3-4 weeks after the exposure, a healthcare provider may also recommend that you go to the clinic to have a standard test which measures the virus not the antibodies, and which can be more accurate in early infection.

How does the test work?

(You can also watch the one minute video here)

  1. A new/unopened INSTI HIV Point-of-Care test kit is used for each test and the entire test process takes place in front of you.
  2. The pharmacist collects a small amount of blood from a finger prick and adds it to the reagent in vial one, mixing it gently.
  3. Immediately after this, the contents of vial one are poured into the membrane unit and the fluid is allowed to completely soak in, giving HIV antibodies time to attach. These antibodies are produced by the body and are a sign that HIV has entered the bloodstream.
  4. Next, blue reagent from vial two is added to the membrane unit. The fluid is allowed to fully soak in, giving time for the blue dye to attach to the HIV antibodies.
  5. Finally, the clarifying solution from vial three is added to the membrane unit making the test dots clearly visible, and allowing the pharmacist to read the test result.

The test is done in a few minutes and reported as either reactive (HIV-positive), non-reactive (HIV-negative), or invalid. After telling you your test result, you and the Pharmacist will discuss options and next steps.

Please Note: A reactive result will need follow-up blood work to confirm you are HIV-positive.

How often should I be tested for HIV?

It is recommended that you get tested three weeks, six weeks and three months after any high-risk HIV exposure. It usually takes 2-4 weeks after infection for HIV antibodies to appear in the blood; in some circumstances they may not be measurable for up to three months.

High-risk HIV exposure may occur when your partner is HIV-positive and has a detectable viral load, or when you don’t know your partner’s HIV status and the person is from one of Ontario’s higher risk populations. With these partners, high-risk exposures occur when you have:  

  1. Unprotected vaginal or anal sex
  2. Condom breakage, leakage, or slippage with exposure to body fluids
  3. Unprotected penetration without ejaculation including dipping or delayed application or premature removal of condom
  4. Shared syringes or crack pipe equipment

If in your discussions with the pharmacist, it is determined that you have had a high-risk exposure to HIV, it is recommended that you be tested at three weeks, six weeks and three months after that exposure.

In the first 3-4 weeks after the exposure, a healthcare provider may also recommend that you go to the clinic to have a standard blood draw which measures the virus, not the antibodies, and which can be more accurate in early infection.

If you are having high-risk exposures frequently, a healthcare provider can refer you to resources to help you reduce your risk.

For more information on HIV you can check out CATIE’s website here