Where can I get an HIV test?
You can get a test at your local sexual health clinic. You can find your local clinic here http://www.fpa.org.uk/find-a-clinic. You should also be able to get an HIV test when you visit your GP, and they are also increasingly available in community settings (for example in pharmacies or provided by charities, such as Terrence Higgins Trust).
You can also order home-sampling kits (where you send off a sample of saliva or blood for testing). There is a free home sampling service available in many areas of the country. You can check your eligibility for the service by typing in your postcode at https://www.test.hiv/.
From April 2014 it has been legal to sell HIV self-testing kits in the UK. Self-testing kits give you the result there and then, without anyone else being involved. The test will tell you if there are no signs of HIV or if the test result is 'reactive' and it cannot rule out the presence of HIV infection. You should always confirm the test result in a healthcare setting.
When should I take an HIV test?
You should get an HIV test if you think you have exposed yourself to risk – for example, if you have had sex without a condom with someone whose HIV status you do not know, or if you have shared injecting needles or drug equipment.
If you are a sexually active gay or bisexual man, it is recommended to have an HIV test at least once a year, and more regularly if you have unprotected anal sex with new or casual partners.
HIV tests are also recommended as part of a routine sexual health check up.
If you have recently had sex without a condom, and you experience severe flu-like symptoms (sore throat and fever) plus a rash on the chest, this could be symptoms of recent HIV infection and you should get tested as soon as possible.
How soon can I get an accurate result from an HIV test?
After a person has been infected with HIV, there is a four week gap – commonly referred to as a ‘window period’ – where the virus will not be detected by a test. After this window period, you can then get a reliable test result telling you whether you are HIV positive or negative. If your test comes up positive, a confirmatory laboratory test may be recommended again after three months.
If you think you have been exposed to risk of HIV, you should not wait for the four week window period to pass before seeking help. You should contact your local sexual health clinic or GP immediately and discuss your options.
What types of HIV tests are available?
Most HIV tests involve taking a blood sample which is then sent off to a laboratory for testing, but you can also get rapid tests which use a finger-prick or saliva sample.
Can I buy an HIV self-test kit in the UK?
HIV self-test kits are used to test yourself for HIV. They give a result straight away, like a home pregnancy test. They are different to home-sampling tests – these are posted off to a lab which then provides you with a result (you may be eligible for a free home-sampling test; you can find out at https://www.test.hiv/).
The Biosure test (the only approved self-test in the UK) is 99.7% accurate if used correctly and has four quick, simple steps - getting a single small drop of blood; applying the blood to the test device; operating the test and reading the result. You can buy them from Biosure, at www.hivselftest.co.uk.
You can buy self-test kits online, but be careful: only buy kits that you can be sure meet European standards and carry the ‘CE’ mark for use as a self-test. There’s no way to be sure other tests are safe or reliable.
It’s important to have a think beforehand how you would feel if you did get a positive result. Would it be easier for you to have a friend or partner with you? Or to get a test done by a healthcare professional in a clinic?
It is also important to take into account the ‘window-period’ when testing, meaning it can take up to three months after infection for the current HIV self-test to be able to detect HIV in your blood. Tests that can detect HIV more quickly (within one month) are available free of charge through a sexual health clinic.
For more detailed information read our quick guide and FAQs on HIV self-testing.
How long will I have to wait for a test result?
Rapid tests (using a pin-prick or saliva sample) can return results in less than 15 minutes. If you have a blood test which is then sent to a laboratory tests, the results can take up to 2 weeks, but are very often available sooner.
Will I have to pay for an HIV test?
Generally no – all NHS services are free of charge and this includes HIV tests in a sexual health clinic or GP surgery. You may have to pay for a home-sampling kit in some areas and currently available self-testing kits are also not available for free.
If you would like to order a home-sampling kit, you can check your eligibility for a free kit by typing in your postcode at https://www.test.hiv/.
Can you test for HIV and AIDS?
Yes you can get tested for HIV. There is no such thing as an ‘AIDS test’ as AIDS is simply a term which refers to a certain level of HIV progression, usually only occurring if HIV goes undiagnosed and untreated for some time.
DID YOU KNOW?
People who are on effective HIV treatment, with an undetectable viral load for least six months can not pass the virus on. NAT is lobbying the NHS to allow people to start treatment early if they want to, in order to prevent transmission.