The Advantages of Choosing Better2Know
- Always 100% Confidential. You do not have to give us your real name. Your results are never shared without your consent.
- Fast Results. Your HIV test results will be available quickly, and available on line. Many of our clinics also offer instant HIV testing so you can know your status immediately.
- Locations. We have testing clinics across Ireland so you will not have to travel far.
- Facilities. Our clinics are clean and modern.
- Non-Judgmental. The clinical staff are friendly and non-judgmental. We have heard it all before.
HIV Testing Options
Better2Know has a number of HIV Testing options. Which test you choose depends on how long ago you may have been exposed, as well as your own personal preference. The decision is always yours.
HIV takes time before it can be accurately detected. This time between infection and accurate detection is known as the "window" or "incubation" period. It is important you know your incubation period to choose the right test for you.
Better2Know offers four types of HIV test, which can detect the virus at different window periods:
- Instant HIV Test (tests start at 26 days after exposure) a fourth generation test
- 10 Day HIV RNA PCR Test (for exposures that occurred more than 10 days ago)
- 28 Day HIV DUO Test (for exposures that occurred more than 28 days ago), a fourth generation HIV test
We also offer HIV Medical Certificates if you need a certificate for a visa or work.
You may have heard of a third generation, 90 day HIV Test or antibody only test. This is the usual HIV antibody test which many sexual health clinics offer. It is a third generation test.
An antibody is the immune system's response to disease. If you have been infected with HIV, your body will produce antibodies which are typically detectable through testing after three months. Better2Know no longer offers the 90 day HIV test. This is because it is no longer the best test we can offer you. We offer the HIV Duo 28 day test which tests for everything which included in this 90 day test as well as the p24 antigen. Therefore the Duo test is a more accurate test, If you have been advised to retest in three months time, then Better2Know suggests our 28 day HIV test as the most appropriate test for you.
Please visit the individual test pages to find out more about each option.
How is HIV transmitted?
HIV is transmitted by body fluid to body fluid. The body fluids that can transmit HIV are:
- Semen and pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum)
- Vaginal secretions
- Breast milk
The body fluids that cannot transmit HIV are:
The virus can be transmitted from one person to another sexually (such as through unprotected sex) or non-sexually (such as through sharing needles).
- Vaginal Sex
- Anal Sex
- Oral Sex
If an infected man has unprotected (no condom) vaginal sex with a woman, he can pass on the virus to her through the lining of the cervix, uterus and womb. If she has any cuts or sores (which may not be visible) then the risk of transmission is higher as it makes it easier for the virus to get into the bloodstream. If an infected woman has unprotected sex with a man, she can transmit the virus to him through either a sore or cut on his penis, his urethra or the inside of his foreskin.
Anal sex is riskier than vaginal sex, as the membrane (lining) of the anus is thinner and more delicate than the vagina and therefore more prone to tearing. For both vaginal and anal sex, the receptive partner ("the bottom") is at a higher risk of contracting any STI, than the giving partner.
Oral sex is considered very low risk for contracting and transmitting HIV. This is because saliva has enzymes which break down the virus and because the lining of the mouth is tougher than the vagina or anus. There is a hypothetical risk of transmission if sexual fluids come into contact with sores or ulcers in the mouth or if blood from the mouth comes into contact with any genital sores. This risk is considered extremely small.
The risk of getting the virus through sex is increased if there is any blood present (such as during a woman's period or due to any cuts) or if any partner has another STI or STIs.
- Sharing needles
- Mother to child
- Blood transfusions and products
- Healthcare workers
- Tattoos or piercings
- Needle stick injuries
Sharing needles is a very high risk activity for many blood borne diseases as needles are an efficient way for one person's blood to enter another person's blood stream.
Mothers can transmit many STIs to their newborns either during pregnancy, during delivery or by breastfeeding. There are drugs which can reduce the risk of transmission of these STIs significantly if a mother knows her status early enough in the pregnancy.
It is extremely rare to contract the virus through a blood transfusion carried out in a developed country these days, as all blood donations are routinely screened. However, in countries where blood supplies are not routinely screened, blood transfusion poses a high risk for transmission.
What are the symptoms of HIV?
Many people who become newly infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) experience symptoms which are very much flu like in nature during the first few weeks. This is a sign that your immune system has noticed something is wrong and is putting up a fight against the new infection. Having these symptoms do not mean that you do have HIV. The only way to know for sure is to get tested.
These symptoms usually occur two to six weeks after transmission. They can last for up to four weeks. Research carried out by the National Aids Trust suggests that 70% - 90% of people who become infected with HIV develop these early symptoms.
Not everyone has symptoms, but when these do occur, most commonly they include:
- Sore throat
- Body rash
Other symptoms can include:
- Joint and muscle pain
- Swollen glands
These symptoms are very common to many illnesses. The only real way to know if you have HIV is to get tested.
Symptoms of HIV over longer periods
After the first stage, there follows a long period where there are fewer symptoms. This is known as the 'asymptomatic stage'. An untreated HIV positive person can look and feel well for the first few years of an infection. They may slowly find that it takes longer to get over colds and other infections. This period can last around 8 to 10 years (without treatment, but much longer if the appropriate treatment is followed). It is during this time that the virus attacks the immune system causing a drop in the CD4 count.
CD4 is a protein found on the surface of a type of white blood cell (T cells) that play an important role in fighting off infections. It is these CD4 cells that send a signal to other cells in the body that an infection is present and needs to be destroyed. As the CD4 count drops and the immune system is weakened, the person may begin to experience signs of other illnesses.
As the CD4 count drops, the person may have entered the third stage: the 'symptomatic stage' during which Infections such as pneumonia and TB are more likely as the immune system is weakened and it can be harder to fight off new infections. Signs of other illnesses can include sudden weight loss, night sweats, an increase in frequency of cold sore outbreaks, swollen glands, tiredness and diarrhoea.
It is during this stage where an immune system cannot cope and other infections occur, that someone may be diagnosed with AIDS (an AIDS defining illness will occur). These days, with appropriate medication, most people with HIV who take the appropriate treatment early and regularly enough will not go on to develop AIDS.
Any of these symptoms can occur in people without HIV, so even at this stage the only way to know is to get tested. You should take a test if you are at risk, even if you have no symptoms. An early diagnosis is important for successful treatment.
Research has also shown that early diagnosis is important as it allows HIV to be monitored and managed so that the person receives the most appropriate care to them. With correct management HIV is no longer the life-threatening illness it once was. Better2Know offers HIV tests that can detect the virus from just ten days after any potential exposure.