HIV testing and results

What is HIV?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system, and if left untreated can lead to AIDS. 

What is AIDS?

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is a syndrome in which the HIV has damaged the body’s immune system, making individuals more vulnerable to infections and diseases. With current, highly effective HIV treatments, AIDS is extremely uncommon in Australia

How does someone become infected with HIV?

You can become infected with HIV if you have unprotected sex, or share injecting equipment, with someone who is HIV positive.

HIV can be transmitted by:

  • Vaginal or anal sexual intercourse without a condom
  • Sharing drug injecting equipment
  • During pregnancy, childbirth, or breast feeding if the mother has HIV
  • Needle stick injuries e.g. healthcare workers

HIV is rarely transmitted by:

  • Vaginal or anal sex if condoms have been used correctly
  • Oral sex without a condom 
  • Skin splashes with HIV infected body fluids

HIV has never been reported as being transmitted by:

  • Kissing or cuddling
  • Shaking hands/social contact
  • Sharing knives and forks, cups or glasses
  • Toilet seats or mosquitoes 
What is the HIV Antibody test?

It is a blood test, which detects HIV antibodies. These antibodies are produced by the body within six weeks of infection with HIV. This is called the window period.

What does a negative HIV antibody test result mean?

A negative HIV test result means that a person has not been infected with HIV or that a person has been infected with HIV recently (within the last 6 weeks), but has not yet produced antibodies.

What does a positive HIV test result mean?

A positive HIV test means that HIV antibodies have been detected. This means a person has been infected with HIV. This result is not given over the phone.

What does an inconclusive HIV test result mean?

It means that the test is neither positive nor negative, and needs to be repeated. Some repeat test will be negative and some positive. This test result is also not given over the phone

Advantages of knowing your HIV status if HIV positive

  • Having access to HIV treatments, which dramatically improve the duration and quality of life of people living with HIV.
  • Knowledge of HIV status may help you negotiate safe sex and/or injecting behaviour.

Other things to consider:

  • Having an HIV antibody test can be stressful. You can discuss any concerns with a counsellor, nurse or doctor during your consultation.
  • Talking about how you would manage a positive HIV result is often helpful.
  • Medical information is confidential at MSHC, and HIV testing use coded specimens.
  • The Health Department receives statistics on the number of people with HIV or AIDS, but not names or addresses. Details appear in coded form only.
  • There is a legal requirement for people infected with HIV to inform sexual partners, 
  • Life insurance and visas for some countries can be restricted for HIV infected people.
Getting your HIV result
With your permission, we will SMS your negative HIV result within seven days. If your HIV result is positive or inconclusive, we will call you and ask you to attend the clinic to discuss your result.


This fact sheet is designed to provide you with information on HIV Testing and Results. It is not intended to replace the need for a consultation with your doctor. All clients are strongly advised to check with their doctor about any specific questions or concerns they may have. Every effort has been taken to ensure that the information in this pamphlet is correct at the time of printing.
Last Updated November 2017