Deliver information about what a positive result would mean before testing is undertaken.
The stress and emotion attached to a positive result does not create a great environment for giving and retaining information. It is the Doctor or trained nurse’s responsibility to do this however it is always worth checking that this has occurred and a young person has understood the information.
The langue that surrounds BBV testing can be very confusing.
A positive result means evidence of a BBV has been found in a person’s blood. A negative result means no evidence of a virus has been found – they are ‘all clear.’
Understand the ‘window period’.
When testing a person’s blood sometimes it is not possible to test for the actual virus itself so a lab looks for signs that the virus is there. It can take time between exposure to a virus and these signs showing up in the blood. Therefore a test taken during this time (known as the window period) may yield a false negative result. It is for this reason that young people are sometimes advised to wait a week or two to undergo a blood test. The length of the window period varies depending on the technology used to test the blood.
Testing is fallible.
Occasionally an ‘indeterminate result’ will mean blood has to be drawn again and sent for testing. This can be an emotional roller-coaster equivalent to receiving a positive result. Similar emotional support should be considered.
Results (even negative ones) cannot, by law, be given over the phone.
It must be given in person by a Doctor or nurse trained to deliver the results. This is called post test counseling.
Post test counseling is also an opportunity to consider future harm reduction practices, receive condoms / sterile needles and reflect on past circumstances that resulted in risky behavior and how to encounter these circumstances differently next time.
Rapid HIV testing.
At time of writing peer led rapid testing clinics were making HIV testing more accessible to some people who require regular testing (and the repetition of comprehensive screening and post test counseling poses a barrier). It is possible that home test kits (currently available over the internet) will increase in accuracy, affordability and popularity over time.