Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer
What is HIV Self-testing (HIVST)?

It is a process whereby an individual collects his or her specimen, performs a test, and interprets the results, often in a private setting either alone or with someone he or she trusts. HIVST can be either directly assisted or non-assisted.

What is Unassisted HIV Self-testing?

Unassisted testing refers to when an individual follows the instructions on the HIV self-test kit insert or other informational resources (such as leaflets or telephone helplines) and performs the test, without assistance from anyone.

What is Directly Assisted HIV Self-testing?

This refers to when individuals who are performing a self-test for HIV receive an in-person demonstration from a trained provider or peer before or during HIVST, with instructions on how to perform a self-test and how to interpret the self-test result. This assistance is provided in addition to the manufacturer-supplied instructions for use and other materials found inside HIVST kits.

What are the Benefits of HIVST?
  • Promotes access to HIV testing services and knowledge of HIV status
  • Reduces the effects of stigma and discrimination by allowing key and vulnerable populations to test in private
  • Easy to use with minimal waste generation
  • Increases independence and self-sufficiency of HIV- testing clients
  • Promotes mutual partner testing
  • Assures confidence in HIV test results because individuals interpret results on their own
  • Convenient; clients can use HIV self-test kits in the privacy of their own home
What are the Outcomes of HIVST?

HIVST can turn out reactive, non-reactive, or invalid

Reactive results are when the test indicates that HIV antibodies are present in the blood or oral fluid sample. Anyone whose result is reactive to an HIV self-test (and any other rapid HIV test) must have additional testing following the approved national HIV testing algorithm, conducted by a trained HIV testing provider.

Non-reactive results are when the test indicates that HIV antibodies were not found in the blood or oral fluid sample. Anyone whose result is non-reactive to an HIV-self test (and any other rapid HIV test) does not need further testing but should be supported to re-test in an appropriate time frame if they have had a recent potential HIV exposure or are at ongoing HIV risk.

Where Can HIVST Kits be Accessed?
  • HIVST kits are available in pharmacies, community health centers, patent medicine vendors “chemists”and are sometimes issued free to individuals.
  • Chat us for linkage to the OSS.

Some HIV self-test kits use saliva as the sample that is collected to perform the test, so they are called saliva-based kits. Others use blood as the sample and are therefore called blood-based kits.

Tips for Ensuring Accurate Saliva-based HIV Self-test Result
Conducting HIV Self-test (Saliva-based)
  1. Check the expiry date of the kit on the pack and ensure it has not expired before use.
  2. Do not store the HIV self-test kit under direct sunlight.
  3. While the kit is safe for use, do not eat any component of the kit.
  4. Do not eat or drink anything 15 minutes before using saliva-based HIV self-test kit to conduct your HIV test. This is to avoid impurities that may affect the result.
  5. Do not use mouth cleaning agents (like toothpaste, mouth wash, etc), 30 minutes before using the saliva-based HIV self-test kit to conduct your HIV test.
  6. Remove any dental product (like a denture, golden teeth, etc) that may cover the gum.
  7. Do not use an HIV self-test kit if you are already HIV positive.
  8. If you are using PrEP or on ARV, you may have a false-negative result.
  9. Do not use an saliva-based HIV self-test kit to conduct an HIV test if you are 11 years old or younger.
  10. Do not use HIV self-test if the kit has been exposed to a household cleaning agent, like bleach.
  11. Do not use the kit if it is already open or damaged.
  12. Do not open the kit until you are ready to conduct your HIV test.
  13. Make sure to have your watch or clock to time your test.
  14. Do not swap the test device more than once on both the upper and low gums.
Interpretation of Saliva-based HIV Self-test Results
  1. Read the result within 20 minutes of the test.
  2. Do not read the result after 40 minutes of the test.
  3. Conduct the test in a well-lighted place, to ease visibility and interpretation of results.
  4. If only one RED or PINK line shows at the C mark on the test device after 20 minutes, it means that no HIV antibody is present in the saliva of that person. This person does not need any additional test to confirm the non-reactive result.
  5. A non-reactive result may also mean that the person’s immune system has not produced enough antibodies that the test can detect (this happens when the person is newly infected). It is advised that a person with non-reactive results repeat the test in the next 6 to 8 weeks to be sure of the negative result
  6. If two RED or PINK lines show on both the C and T marks on the test device, this means that HIV antibodies are present in the saliva of that person. This means a reactive result.
  7. A reactive result needs to be re-confirmed by a trained HIV testing service provider, using the national algorithm. This means that the person will need to go to the health facility for confirmation.
  8. If NO RED or PINK line appears on the C mark (at any test), this means that the HIV self-test kit is not good. Discharge it and get another kit.
  • No one should be forced or coerced into using an HIV self-test. This includes partners, Children, peers, and other family members.
  • Couples and partners may choose to use HIV self-tests to learn their HIV status together, but both partners should agree to do this voluntarily.
  • Children and young people should never be forced to test, and a child’s HIV test result should not be used as a proxy for the parent’s HIV status.