Guide to Australian HIV Laws and Policies for Healthcare Professionals

HIV Testing


HIV testing is an important tool for minimising the spread of HIV and enabling access to treatment. Testing is also vital to mapping patterns of HIV transmission and providing the evidence base for public health campaigns and health service planning.

Compared to other countries, HIV testing rates in Australia are high. However, recent modelling and behavioural samples suggest that between 10 and 20% of people in Australia living with HIV have not yet been diagnosed. The Eighth National Strategy 2018-2022 recognises that improving access to, and the uptake of, testing is important to reduce late diagnosis of HIV. 

Australian HIV testing is governed by the 2011 National HIV Testing Policy (which is aligned with the Eighth National HIV Strategy 2018-2022). The policy is reviewed regularly.

The key principles guiding HIV testing are that:

  • testing is demonstrably of the highest possible standard and timely
  • testing should be voluntary and performed with informed consent
  • test results will remain confidential (i.e. only the person being tested and the person providing the results will be entitled to information necessary to identify the individual result). Exceptions to this principle are identified in the Policy.
  • testing must be accessible to all those at risk of HIV infection
  • testing is critical to the interruption of transmission on a population level
  • testing is of benefit to the person being tested and a critical trigger to initiating interventions including treatment
  • testing is critical to understanding the epidemiology of HIV infection in the community
  • anonymous testing should be available to individuals, subject to the need to obtain sufficient demographic information from those being tested to allow accurate aggregate information to contribute to surveillance

For more information on clinical manifestations of HIV, see Giles M, Workman C. Clinical manifestations of HIV disease. In: Hoy J, Lewin S. Post JJ, Street A. HIV Management in Australasia: a guide for clinical care. Darlinghurst: Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine; 2016.

1. In law, the term ‘consent’ includes the requirement that a person had full knowledge of key issues before making a decision, so consent cannot be given unless it is ‘informed’. The term ‘informed consent’ is used in the National HIV Testing Policy to stress practitioners’ role in providing the information that may or may not facilitate a patient giving consent. 

2. Giles M, Workman C. Clinical manifestations of HIV disease. In: Hoy J, Lewin S. Post JJ, Street A. HIV Management in Australasia: a guide for clinical care. Darlinghurst: Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine; 2016. Available at http://hivmanagement.ashm.org.au/index.php/clinical-manifestations-of-hiv#