Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the immune system and gradually weakens it over time.

How is it spread?

Typically HIV is spread through sexual contact or the sharing of infected drug needles. Previously unscreened blood donations were a potential cause but in developed countries this is almost non-existent because of new stringent screening processes.

Sexual intercourse remains the most common way that HIV is spread.

The table below shows relative risks for unprotected exposure:


All bodily fluids can contain varying amounts of the virus but by far the most potent fluids are blood and semen, hence the risks highlighted in the above table. Vaginal fluid and saliva can contain the virus but at much lower levels.

HIV - overview

What does it do?

HIV enters the body and binds onto a specific white blood cell known as CD4 cells. Once bound the virus enters the cell, uses the cell to replicate further virus numbers and eventually kills the cell, which releases more virus ready to infect further CD4 cells. If left unchecked and untreated the CD4 count will drop very low and cause problems with your immune system. If left long term this will eventually lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Disorder (AIDS).

HIV Symptoms?

Symptoms are not specific in HIV meaning that it can mimic many other common conditions. Some people may experience severe flu-like symptoms, known as Acute Retroviral Syndrome (ARS) but symptoms alone are not enough to diagnose HIV. – HIV Rash



The only way to be sure for HIV is to get tested. Full laboratory blood tests as well as rapid tests are available that are conclusive at different window periods.


Rapid tests – ready in 15 – 20 mins

  • 4th generation combo test – conclusive 28 days or more from exposure.
  • 3rd generation determine test – conclusive 3 months or more from exposure
  • 3rd generation oral swab test – conclusive 3 months or more from exposure

3rd gen

3rd generation test

4th gen

4th generation test


Oral swab test

Laboratory tests

  • 4th generation combo test – conclusive 28 days or more from exposure.
  • 3rd generation determine test – conclusive 3 months or more from exposure.
  • HIV PCR RNA test – conclusive 10 days or more from exposure.

Unfortunately no test is available before 10 days. However, if your exposure happened within the last 72 hours then you can take Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) medication to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.

Video on HIV Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)

*Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is short-term antiretroviral treatment to reduce the likelihood of HIV infection after potential exposure.

What if my HIV test is positive?

HIV diagnosis needs to be exact because of the repercussions, particularly in Singapore. Firstly a single ‘reactive’ result must be followed up with a Western Blot laboratory blood test for confirmation. Only after this test is done can we say that a person is ‘positive’ for HIV.

Once this confirmatory blood test is completed doctors are bound by law to inform the ministry of health of the patient’s positive status. Should the patient be on a work pass or PR, they will have this revoked and they will be asked to leave the country.

Seeking treatment as soon as possible after confirmation of a positive status will greatly improve long term outcomes.

Anonymous testing is also available at DTAP Robertson clinic. Here they can only do the in house rapid tests since laboratory tests are not anonymous.


With Anonymous HIV testing, no personal details are needed, and a positive result will not be informed to the Ministry of Health.

Related Topics:

Anonymous HIV testing at DTAP Clinics – here
HIV – Understanding the Window Period – here
Cost of HIV/STD tests at DTAP Clinics
Condom Broke
Getting HIV from Oral Sex
More on HIV symptoms
How long can HIV live outside the body?
Learn more about HIV Testing (F.A.Q) – here


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