Exit website

HIV testing and treatment

Although there is no cure for HIV, treatments are now very effective, enabling people with HIV to live long and active lives. You can only be certain you have HIV if you get an HIV test.

HIV tests

The most common form of HIV test is a blood test.

  • One small sample of blood is taken that measures antibodies to HIV. Antibodies can take up to one month to appear in the blood after your last potential exposure to HIV (last risk).
  • If the test is positive, we will repeat the test to confirm the result. If the test is negative but it has been less than one month since your last risk, we will offer a further repeat test one month after your last risk.
  • The results are normally available within one week. You may be asked to return in person to receive the result.

Rapid HIV testing is also available. This test involves a small finger-prick of blood and the results are back within minutes. If you receive a positive result, or it’s been less than 12 weeks since your last risk, you will need to give a blood sample for a thorough test.

HIV test

The benefits of testing for HIV

  • A negative result will give you peace of mind.
  • If the test comes back positive (meaning you have HIV antibodies in your blood), you will be offered care, support, and treatment, when necessary, which will help to keep you healthy.
  • Treatments are available for people with HIV which can help prevent you from becoming ill. Only by knowing that you are infected do you have the option of using these treatments. The earlier you are diagnosed, the more effective treatment can be.
  • These treatments can also reduce the risk of HIV positive pregnant women passing the infection to their babies.
  • By knowing you are HIV positive you can prevent spreading the infection to others.
  • Gaining knowledge about HIV during testing can help protect you from the risks of infection in the future.

Treatment

Treatment can be started at any point following your diagnosis with HIV. The earlier you start the treatment, the better.

Routine appointments with your doctor are usually every 3-6 months, although initially you may need to be seen more frequently.

Medication, known as antiretrovirals (ART), work by stopping the virus replicating in the body, allowing the immune system to repair itself and preventing further damage. These medicines come in the form of tablets, which need to be taken every day.

At regular intervals, blood tests are taken to look at the amount of virus in the blood. This helps to show whether the treatment is working or whether a change in medication is needed. Bloods are also taken to monitor other functions in your body that may be affected by the medication or the HIV itself.

Effective HIV treatment can now take the level of virus in the blood to undetectable, meaning it cannot be passed on.

These treatments can also significantly reduce the risk of HIV positive pregnant women passing the infection to their babies.

As part of your care, you will be offered regular screening for sexually transmitted infections and annual cervical screening smear tests (for women). We also ensure that all your vaccinations are up to date. We also like to check your mental health and wellbeing.

Videos:

Undetectable = Untransmittable

Did you know that having an undetectable viral load when you are taking HIV treatment (ART) also stops HIV transmission?

For at least 20 years we have known that ART reduces HIV transmission. But in recent years, leading scientists have agreed that the risk is not just reduced, but stopped completely.

ART is not only good for your own health, it also protects your partners.

This means that you don’t need to use condoms if you were only using them to stop HIV. However, you may wish to continue using condoms to prevent other sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy.

Protection from ART depends on:

Taking ART every day in the right way and at the right time, with no missed doses
Having an undetectable viral load

The evidence for U=U comes from studies with both gay and straight couples, and for all types of sex. Leading UK doctors and researchers strongly support the U=U statement.

Good news about HIV