The I’m Ready research program, which offers HIV self-testing access and support to connect to care through peer navigators, is one way for people to access HIV self-testing and information about testing in Canada.
People interested in testing may also seek guidance from and want to learn more about the test from staff at their local community-based organization, or they may want to take the test at an agency and have a staff person present to guide them through completing the test or interpreting their results.
Agencies should be aware that self-tests are specifically licensed for people to do the test on themselves. This means people who use a self-test are taking on the responsibility of doing the test correctly. If staff are asked to help with completing the test, they should assist only by guiding the self-tester through the labelled instructions and not be put in a situation where they are determining the result of the test or whether someone is HIV–positive.
If agencies choose to provide what has been referred to as “supervised” self-testing (i.e., being present or connected virtually to guide someone through the self–testing process), it is advisable that the agency staff and volunteers:
- Do not complete the test on behalf of the client. Most especially, do not conduct the finger puncture of the client’s skin, since this is a procedure that can only be performed by some regulated health professionals.
- Do not say to the client that they have HIV. Instead, the agency staff or volunteer may choose to confirm the number of spots that appear on the test. They can then refer the client to the package insert for details on result interpretation and remind the client that the self-test is an initial test that needs confirmatory testing if positive.
After a person has completed testing, there is a very important role an agency can play in providing referrals to testing clinics for confirmatory testing, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) or Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) services, and/or other services as appropriate. For more information on PrEP and to determine who would be a good candidate for PrEP, visit our Care pathways pages.
It is important to offer support to people choosing to take the test and to remind them that if their result is positive, people living with HIV who receive care and treatment continue to live long healthy lives. You can learn more about the appropriate messages and information to share with someone who has just tested, depending on their test results, on our Pre and post-test counselling pages.