Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Blood test for HIV

Blood test for HIV
beginning of content

HIV infection and AIDS

If you think you have been exposed to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), see a doctor as soon as possible.

HIV is the virus that causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). HIV damages the immune system, and without treatment, can lead to serious infections and cancers over time. The difference between having an HIV infection and being given a diagnosis of AIDS is related to the presence of certain types of infections and cancers. It means not all people with HIV have AIDS.

People with HIV who take effective treatment are unlikely to develop AIDS and have a near-normal life expectancy.

What if I have been exposed to HIV?

There are medications which can sometimes prevent HIV from infecting a person who has been exposed. This is known as Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP). It is best to start PEP as soon as possible, and within 72 hours (three days) of exposure.

You can find out more about PEP by talking to a doctor or calling a HIV PEP hotline in your state or territory:

Alternatively you call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 or visit the Get PEP website for details on local PEP services across all states and territories.

It is also important to be tested for HIV. Your doctor or sexual health clinic can order a blood test for HIV. They may also use a rapid test in the office that can provide a result within 10-20 minutes. There is no home testing available in Australia yet. An early diagnosis can help you get the best treatment, prevent the progression to AIDS and reduce the chance of spreading the infection to others.

Whatever type of test you have, it can take up to 24 days (and sometimes longer) following exposure for blood to show positive for infection with HIV. This is known as the ‘window period’. So you may need more than one test over time to know for sure if you do or do not have an HIV infection. It is important to use safe sex and safe injecting practices while waiting for the test results, and maintaining these practices after testing, even if you get a negative result, will reduce your risk of future exposure and infection.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned, why not use healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Last reviewed: July 2015

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 407 results

HIV/AIDS - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet

These web pages provide information and resources about the burden of HIV/AIDS within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Read more on Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet website

Aerobic exercise for adults living with HIV/AIDS | Cochrane

Performing aerobic exercise or a combination of aerobic exercise and resistive exercise for at least 20 minutes, at least three times per week for at least five weeks appears to be safe and may improve fitness, body composition, and well-being for adults living with HIV.

Read more on Cochrane (Australasian Centre) website


HIV and AIDS Factsheet

Read more on NSW Health website


Answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about HIV infection and AIDS.

Read more on AFAO – Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations website

Partners, Family and Friends

Information about HIV/AIDS and tips for partners, family members and friends of people who are positive.

Read more on AFAO – Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations website

HIV and AIDS - Better Health Channel

In Australia, HIV is most commonly spread when having sex without a condom and when sharing needles and other injecting equipment.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

HIV infection fact sheet - Fact sheets

HIV is a virus that damages the immune system. It is transmitted through body fluids. Treatments are available for HIV infection, but there is no vaccine and no cure. AIDS is a late stage of HIV infection.

Read more on NSW Health website

HIV and AIDS: 12 common questions answered -

How does HIV lead to AIDS? Is there an HIV vaccine? How can you avoid HIV infection? Find answers to common questions about HIV.

Read more on myDr website


HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is an infection that attacks the immune system and weakens the bodys ability to fight infections.

Read more on WA Health website

HIV and AIDS in children | Raising Children Network

AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). HIV and AIDS are very rare conditions in Australian children.

Read more on Raising Children Network website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo