HIV testing

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.

Who should get tested?

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:

  • men who have sex with menare advised to have an HIVtest at least once a year, or every three months if they're having unprotected sex with new or casual partners
  • black African men and womenare advised to have an HIV test, and a regular HIV and STI screen, if they're having unprotected sex with new or casual partners

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.

  • "Point of care" test where a sample of saliva from your mouth or a smallspot of blood from your finger is taken in a clinic. This sample doesn't need to be sent to a laboratory and theresult is available within a few minutes.
  • Home-sampling kit where you collect a saliva sample or small spot of bloodat homeand send it off in the post for testing. You'll be contacted by phone or text with your result in a few days. Visit Test.HIVto check if you're eligible for a free test. If not, you can buythem online or from some pharmacies.
  • Home-testing kit where you collect a saliva sample or small spot of blood yourself and test it at home. Theresult is available within minutes.It's important to check that any test you buy has a CE quality assurance mark and is licensed for sale in the UK, as poor quality HIV self-tests are available from overseas.
  • 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.


    Content supplied by the NHS Website

    Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 25 Jan 2016