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HIV self-testing

On November 2, 2020 Health Canada approved the INSTI® HIV Self-Test for use and sale in Canada. HIV self-testing provides results within a few minutes, and it allows people to test where they are most comfortable, without the assistance of a healthcare provider.

How does it work?

The INSTI® HIV Self-Test is an HIV antibody test which detects antibodies produced in response to HIV. Antibodies to HIV can take time to develop after an exposure. It can take 3 to 12 weeks for this test to detect antibodies in the blood, which is known as the window period.

The INSTI® HIV Self-Test is the same HIV Point of Care test that has been used in clinics and health care settings for many years. Research studies have confirmed that self-testing is accurate and is able to produce the same results as Point of Care tests performed by trained healthcare providers.

It uses a finger poke to produce a few drops of bloods which are then added to the testing kit. The results from this test are ready in a few minutes. If the test is negative, it is considered very accurate for the window period. A positive test result must be confirmed with a standard laboratory test from blood taken from a vein. 

Consider reaching out for support from a health care provider before and/or after using the HIV self-test. A health care provider can help with understanding test results or the window period, support those experiencing worry or anxiety, provide a referral for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), and link to follow-up and care after testing if needed. You can use the clinic finder to find services in your area, contact 8-1-1 operated by HealthLink BC, or your regular health care provider if you have one.

Cost

In Canada, the INSTI® HIV Self-Test is available to purchase online from the Biolytical website. The cost of the test kit is not covered by the BC Medical Services Plan. 

The Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR) for REACH 3.0 is working with community organizations across Canada to launch a telehealth program for ordering, distributing, and supporting HIV self-testing.  REACH 3.0 will distribute free self-test kits to research study participants; additional details will be posted when the program launches. The program will use a mobile app, optional Peer support, and offers resources for understanding test results and support for those who may experience worry or anxiety related to testing.

Resources

Biolytical INSTI® HIV Self-Test - Training video
Biolytical INSTI® HIV Self-Test – Purchasing a test kit
CATIE – Fact sheet on HIV self-testing
Pacific AIDS Network – Information on the REACH program and HIV self-testing

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