How can I test for HIV?

Self testing diagram image

Picture source: THT

HIV can be managed really effectively with treatment if it is diagnosed early, so testing is really important. In terms of looking after your health, it’s much better to know. It can seem scary, but remember that today HIV is no longer a life threatening condition now. Treatment is effective and available free of charge to everyone in the UK (regardless of your immigration status) and there is great care and support available.

You can test in sexual health clinics (sometimes called GUM clinics), at the GP, and at other health services. Some charities also provide HIV testing.

It is also possible to order tests to use at home. There are two options: home sampling kits (you send off a sample and your result is sent back to you) and home testing kits (you find out the result yourself at home). Some can be bought, and others can be ordered for free. Find out more from THT. [hyperlink to]

HIV tests and treatment are free and universally available in the UK. Having an HIV test can be a positive choice, and so can testing with a partner. If you or your partner are found to have HIV, effective treatment is available that can both keep the person living with HIV healthy, and prevent transmission to others. Knowing whether you have HIV allows you to make informed choices about your health, and prevention with partners.

Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) has great information about testing, including where and how to access it:

Personal story: testing

“The first time I went for an HIV test, I was actually encouraged not to have one by the doctor I saw at the sexual health clinic. I’d never been for any kind of sexual health check-up before so asked for everything to be done. She said that based on my history I didn’t need an HIV test. I knew a bit about HIV at the time and was surprised to be told that.

Now I work on HIV I think it was really poor practice. Lots of women with HIV are undiagnosed or diagnosed late, and early diagnosis is so important for good health outcomes. Anyone can be affected by HIV, and it’s not always possible to tell who might be, even if you have given a sexual history – I know I wasn’t completely honest in what I told the doctor that day! I did have the test, and would encourage any woman who is sexually active to do the same. It’s always, always better to know.”