It’s quick and easy to test for HIV, whether in person, at a clinic or by ordering a test online.
Where to get an HIV test
It’s never been easier to get an HIV test and to get a result quickly. You can get a test in person or order tests online, with free and paid-for options. Many tests will provide you with a result in just a few minutes.
You can test in person at:
– Simeio Plus, Mobile Units in Athens
– An HIV testing centre, including those supported by AHF, such as Checkpoint and the Municipality of Athens testing sites.
– A GP/family doctor can refer you to a private laboratory
If you test at a Skin and Venereal Diseases Hospital, testing centre or a GP then your test will be free of charge. If you test at a private clinic, you will have to pay.
Face-to-face services may have different arrangements in place as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Please call them before attending.
No-one will be told the result of your HIV test unless you agree, including your employer, family, partners and immigration authorities. If you do a test with your doctor, your result will go on your GP notes.
In many European countries and the USA, there is the opportunity to have a self-test or postal test.
Unfortunately in Greece there are still no such facilities available. Being a significant advocacy issue within the community though, things might hopefully improve in the future.
Getting a result quickly
Many services offer rapid testing, which means a finger-prick test that will give you a result within minutes.
A self testing kit ordered online and done at home will normally give you a result up to 15 minutes, depending on the kit.
(For the time being though there is no such facility available in Greece yet. See underlined part above)
A blood sample taken at a testing centre will be sent to a lab, with results ready within a day or up to a week later.
How an HIV test works
An HIV test is a blood test. It does not detect HIV itself, but looks for a protein found in an HIV cell, or an antibody made by the body to fight HIV.
HIV tests in Greece are very reliable. They can occasionally, though, produce a positive result which is then found to be negative when tested again. This is called a false positive and is rare, occurring in less than 1 in 1000 cases.
National testing guidelines set out a 90-day window for HIV rapid-tests.
Blood tests that you send off to a lab and those available at sexual health clinics have a testing window of 21-45 days, depending on the test administered. Elisa 4 ranges from 21-25 days as a window period, while Elisa 3, 45 days.
In practical terms, this means that a rapid-test tells you what your HIV status was 90 days ago, while a blood test tells you what your status was 45 days ago.
When you should take an HIV test
What testing service you should use, and which type of test, depends on when you might have been exposed to HIV. Signs of HIV infection don’t show up in the blood right away. It normally happens within four weeks of infection, but can be longer.
If you think you might have been exposed to HIV in the last 72 hours (three days), it’s possible to take post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to help stop an infection from happening.
If your risk was recent, then your test provider will probably advise you to take a test immediately, followed by a second one a few weeks later. The second test will pick up any infection the first one may have missed.
If your risk was in the last three months, make sure you tell the person testing you, as it may affect the type of test you’re given.
Very occasionally it can take up to three months for antibodies to appear in the blood, so an HIV negative result is only totally accurate if three months have passed between the test and the last time a risk was taken.
How often should you test for HIV?
Testing at least once a year for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is good sexual health practice for everyone who is sexually active, even if you know you haven’t put yourself at risk of infection. Depending on how many different sexual partners you have in any one year, you might want to consider testing more regularly.
Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) should get tested routinely for HIV and other STIs – at least annually or every three months if having sex without condoms with new or casual partners.
Why it’s important to test
If you have HIV, finding out means you can start treatment, stay healthy and avoid passing the virus onto anyone else. The sooner you start treatment, the less likely you are to become seriously ill. People who are diagnosed early and get on effective treatment can expect to live a normal lifespan.
Once you’re on effective treatment and your viral load is undetectable then you can’t pass the virus on to anyone else.
If you wait to test, the virus could do a lot of damage. There is a lot of support available for people who test positive on HIV https://positivevoice.gr/