HIV testing

An overview of options for HIV testing, when to get tested and what to expect during testing.


The BC Government recommends everyone in BC aged 18-70 get tested for HIV at least every five years. People at higher risk should test more often.

HIV testing is done with a blood sample. Tests either look for antibodies or a small amount of the virus itself. The immune system creates HIV antibodies to fight the virus.

Preparing for the test

Talk to your health-care provider about how often you should test. In general, you should test if you:

  • Have symptoms.
  • Have a sexual partner who tested positive for HIV.
  • Have shared drug equipment such as needles.
  • Are doing routine screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Are pregnant.
  • Want to know your HIV status.

During the test

Standard testing

A blood sample is taken at a lab or clinic. The sample goes to a laboratory for analysis. HIV blood testing (from a vein) is highly accurate for confirming HIV infection.

If you've had unprotected sex or shared drug use or needles,  you should consider an HIV blood test.

How to get a standard test

Rapid testing

After the test

What happens if you have a positive HIV test

If you test positive for HIV, you will get a call from a public health nurse. The nurse will provide you with support and education and will help you get follow-up health care. If you test positive for HIV while you are an inpatient at a Providence Health Care facility, our staff will provide that support face-to-face.

In BC, HIV is a reportable infection. If you have a positive test, your results are reported to the local medical health officer to help prevent the spread of communicable infections. This information is stored securely to keep it confidential.

If you are diagnosed with a reportable STI (sexually transmitted infection), you must tell anyone you had sexual contact with or shared drug equipment with. They need to know they were exposed to a communicable infection. This is called ‘contact tracing’ or ‘partner notification’. For more information visit  Smart Sex Resource.

Support for Indigenous Peoples

The Indigenous Wellness Liaison Team is here to support your health journey. Team members offer cultural support and healthcare advocacy. Learn more below or call them at 604-682-2344,62937 or email

  • Indigenous wellness services

    The Indigenous Wellness Team at Providence is available to support Indigenous patients and their families. We are here to coordinate culturally safe wellness supports and services.

Find this service near you

The Smart Sex Resource website is a service of the BC Centre for Disease Control. It can help you find a clinic that offers testing for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. At Providence Health Care, point of care testing is offered at the John Ruedy Clinic.

If you are admitted as a patient at a Providence Health Care facility, your blood may be tested for HIV. HIV testing may be ordered with any bloodwork at hospitals within Vancouver Coastal Health region. This is a part of routine care.