Canadians Can Now Access Free HIV Self-Test Kits

Knowledge is power. Get tested for HIV today.

Health Sexual Health Brian Webb

This article was published on July 14th, 2021

Canadians need to start getting tested again for HIV. The COVID-19 global health pandemic has seen a 50% drop of HIV testing in Canada in 2020. This puts communities at greater risk and allows the HIV virus to spread. Knowing your HIV status is extremely important. Now, there is a new, more private option for Canadians to get tested from the comfort of your own home, thanks to a new initiative by the Community-Based Research Centre (CRBC). 

An estimated 16,000 people live with HIV in Canada and don’t know they are positive. Without treatment, the HIV virus can spread, and people with the virus can die of AIDS. Prevention is key. Getting tested and protecting yourself, and your partners is incredibly important. 

In November 2020, Health Canada approved a self-test kit, INSTI HIV. This test kit can be sent to homes across Canada. It’s fast and easy to use. 

To date, in Canada, HIV tests have been performed in labs using blood. It could take days or up to a week to get test results. 

The new INSTI HIV tests are a single-use antibody testing kit. When a person is infected with HIV, the body produces antibodies. When tested with the INSTI HIV test, the test will register a positive result. 

The CRBC has 15,000 INSTI HIV test kits available now to distribute to Canadians. Stigma, discrimination, and access to health care are no longer barriers to getting tested for HIV. And now HIV tests can be performed in the privacy of your own home.

These tests are not the same as the tests performed in clinics and labs in Canada. Those tests are nucleic acid tests (NAT). They test blood for the presence of HIV, which can be detected within a 10-33 day window. NAT tests are used for early detection of HIV. The INSTI HIV test kits check for antibodies, meaning HIV has already infected the person. 

If you test positive for HIV it is important to talk to your doctor, primary care physician, or access medical treatment immediately. In Canada, you will be provided access to antiretroviral drugs, to bring down your viral load count to an undetectable level. Undetectable means you cannot transmit the virus. 

If you have been exposed to HIV, you can access post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). This is a short-term antiretroviral drug regiment to reduce your risk of seroconverting. 

Best yet, Canadians can work with their doctor to get pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is a once-daily pill that can reduce your risk of getting HIV by up to 99.9%. It’s highly effective for preventing HIV. 

Knowing your HIV status is incredibly important. The new INSTI HIV test kits available from the CRBC will help provide greater access to HIV testing, especially for those in remote communities, marginalized communities, and people who fear discrimination and/or stigma from getting tested. 

Knowing your HIV status is incredibly important. The new INSTI HIV test kits available from the CRBC will help provide greater access to HIV testing, especially for those in remote communities, marginalized communities, and people who fear discrimination and/or stigma from getting tested. 

The COVID-19 global health pandemic has seen many advancements in other areas of health care, and the fight to eradicate HIV has moved up in priority. This summer, Oxford University in London started HIV vaccine trials, and new injectable antiretroviral drugs are now being used with great success. 

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