HIV and AIDS
The only way to find out if you haveHIV is to have an HIV test, as symptoms of HIVmay not appear formany years.
HIV testing is provided to anyone free of charge on the NHS. Many clinics can give you the result on the same day and home-testing and home-sampling kits are also available.
Anyone who thinks they could have HIV should get tested.
Certain groups of people are at particularly high risk and are advised to have regular tests. For example:
Other people at an increased risk of infection includethose who share needles, syringes or other injecting equipment. The earlierit's diagnosed, the earlier you can start treatment and avoid becoming seriously ill.
Some HIV tests may need to be repeated one to three months after exposure to HIV infection, but you shouldn't wait this long to seek help. Your GP or a sexual health professional can talk to you about having a test and discuss whether you should take emergency HIV medication.
Anti-HIV medication, called PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) may stop you becoming infected if taken within 72 hours of being exposed to the virus.Results areusually available within a few days.
If the test finds no sign of infection, your result is "negative". If signs of infection are found, the result is "positive".
The full blood test is the most accurate test and can normally give reliable results from one month after infection. The other tests tend to be less accurate and may not give a reliable result for a longer period after exposure to the infection (this is known as the "window period").
For all these tests, a full blood test should be carried out to confirm the result if the first test is positive. If this test is also positive,you'll be referred to a specialist HIV clinic for some more testsand a discussion about your treatment options.
Read about HIV, a virus most commonly caught by having unprotected sex or by sharing infected needles and other injecting equipment to inject drugs.
Symptoms of early HIV infection, also called primary HIV infection or seroconversion, and AIDS (late-stage HIV infection).
Read about the causes of HIV, how it spreads, who's most at risk and its origins in Africa
Read about HIV testing, including when you should get tested, where you can get tested, and what the different tests involve.
Treatments for HIV, including post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), antiretrovirals (ARVs), HIV and pregnancy, sperm washing, side effects and getting support.
Information for people living with HIV, including medication advice, how to stay healthy and reduce your risk of illness and where to find help and support.
Find out how to prevent passing on HIV to others by taking precautions, such as using a condom, when having penetrative vaginal or anal sex.
Sarah has HIV. She describes her pregnancy and the steps she had to take to ensure shed have a healthy baby. An expert explains what HIV is and how to avoid passing it on to your unborn child.
Tina Middleton caught HIV when she was just 20 years old from a partner with haemophilia.
Mick Mason, who has haemophilia, caught HIV and hepatitis in the early 1980s from contaminated blood products.
Michael Edwards contractedHIV in 1990. He is now 62 and is still working and leading a healthy life. The first sign was a bad dose of flu. Like me, my GP is