Backgrounder: Donor Testing - Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Key Facts

  • Nucleic acid testing (NAT) is a highly precise test used to detect human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1 and HIV-2) as well as hepatitis C virus (HCV), hepatitis B virus (HBV) and West Nile virus (WNV) in blood. 
  • NAT greatly reduces the length of time a virus can go undetected in a person who is infected. However, there is still a short window period that exists after acquiring a new infection, during which the virus would not be detected by laboratory tests and an individual could transmit the virus through blood.  
  • During screening, all blood, plasma, and platelet donors are asked questions about sexual behaviour. If they’ve had anal sex with new and/or multiple sexual partners in the last three months, they will be required to wait three months from when they last had anal sex to donate. The three-month time frame encompasses the window periods for testing of various sexually transmitted viruses, including HIV, HBV, and HCV.   
  • In addition to testing every donation, we rely on our donors to be forthcoming about their exposure risks when completing the donor eligibility screening criteria, which is part of a multi-tiered safety system designed to protect recipients.