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Why test

People can live with HIV for years before having any symptoms. The only way to be sure is to have an HIV test.

Getting tested for HIV means that, if you are infected with the virus, you can receive treatment and care before the infection causes too much damage to your body and health.

It is really important to get tested regularly for HIV if you are sexually active and when you change sexual partners because HIV often has no symptoms.

What does the test involve

A blood test is the usual way HIV is detected. We will take a sample of blood either from your arm or from a finger prick. We will be looking for HIV antibodies, or and the p24 antigen.

How long does it take for HIV to show up in a test

Signs of HIV infection can’t be detected in the blood immediately. It usually happens within four weeks of infection (sometimes longer). This is known as the window period. HIV can still be passed on during the window period even though it can’t be detected.

Different tests take different lengths of time before they can detect a recent infection. If your risk was recent the testing centre will probably advise you to have a test immediately, followed by a second one a few weeks later (this will pick up any recent infection the first test might have missed).

How can I get an HIV test

  • sexual health clinics
  • free postal testing kit
  • local drugs agencies, if you are an injecting drug user
  • an antenatal clinic, if you are pregnant
  • your GP surgery (ask your doctor or practice nurse whether your surgery offers HIV testing)
  • private clinics

How will I find out my results

If you test in a clinic or testing centre and they take blood from your arm you might get your result later that day, in a day or so, or possibly up to a week or so later.

If getting your result quickly is important, call ahead and ask how soon results are ready.

If you test in a clinic, positive test results are not given by post, text or over the phone but in person. If you use a home testing service, negative results are sent by text. 

If there’s a problem with your sample or the result is positive, you’ll be contacted by phone,

What should I do if my HIV test is positive

Following a positive result you’ll have a longer talk about what happens next, what support is available and arrangements will be made to see an HIV specialist who will take care of your health.

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