HIV testing

HIV testing

Treatment of HIV is now very advanced and there are many benefits to testing and knowing your status early

What is HIV?

HIV stands for ‘human immunodeficiency virus’. It is an infection caused by a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. In the UK, it is most commonly transmitted by having anal or vaginal sex without a condom.

Who should test for HIV?

Everyone who has ever had sex should be aware of their HIV status, and test regularly. We advise testing at the start and end of a relationship, or every 3-6 months if you are having regular changes in sexual partners. Testing for HIV is now easier than ever.

Why should I test for HIV?

Knowing your HIV status means you no longer need to worry. If you test negative you can take steps to protect yourself, such as taking PrEP. If you test positive, an early diagnosis means you can start simple and effective treatment sooner, which will reduce the chances of becoming unwell. Now we have effective treatment, HIV has become like many other medical conditions. By taking as little as one tablet a day the virus is completely controlled and cannot be passed on. People diagnosed early with HIV and started on treatment can remain fit and well, and live as long as anyone else.

When should I test for HIV?

If you think you may have been exposed to HIV in the last 72hrs it is important to seek advice as soon as possible as you may be able to take PEP to prevent HIV. If more than 72 hours has passed, there may be some time to wait before we can get an accurate result (known as the ‘window period’). If you do not currently know your status we recommend testing as soon as possible then repeating the test after the window period has passed.

How soon can HIV be detected by a blood test?

The tests we use mainly look for antibodies that your body produces in response to infection. These take some time to be detectable. This period of time between sex and a test being able to detect an infection is known as a window period. HIV can sometimes be detected as soon as 14 days after exposure, and can be reliably ruled out 45 days after any risk using a laboratory blood test or 90 days using a rapid HIV test.

How can I test for HIV near me?

There are lots of places you can get an HIV test in Brighton & Hove, including both free and paid for options. If you are not in Brighton & Hove, you can access HIV testing from your local sexual health clinic.

At Brighton and Hove SHAC all of our HIV testing is free and confidential, we offer two ways of testing for HIV using a range of different methods.

Tests sent to a laboratory for testing

These tests have the shortest window period (45 days) which means if you get a negative result and have had no risk of HIV in the 45 days before doing the test, you can be sure you don’t have HIV.

  • In clinic

    An HIV test is a routine blood test offered to everybody having a sexual health screen in clinic. Staff will be able to talk through any concerns that you may have. We take a small sample of blood, which is sent to a laboratory and tested for HIV as well as other blood-borne viruses and syphilis. You can book an appointment online or call us on 01273 523 388.

  • At home HIV testing

    Kits that you can order from our at home STI testing service or collect from our vending machines have all the equipment you need to collect your own blood sample at home and send back to us for testing at the laboratory.

Tips for how to take a blood sample at home using our at home STI testing service:

Rapid HIV testing

Reactive results on rapid HIV tests always need confirming with a further blood test at a sexual health clinic. A negative result is reassuring, but very recent HIV infection (within the last 90 days) may not be detected by these tests, so you should always re-test again in 3 months if you’ve had a recent risk.

  • Finger prick blood (in clinic)

    This test uses a single drop of blood and gives a result within 15 minutes. You may be offered this test before starting a course of PEP or PrEP.

All of the tests used in NHS clinics are highly accurate. If you have attended soon after a potential exposure to HIV you may be advised to repeat your test in a few weeks time.

Tips for how to use the Oraquick oral HIV test at home from one of our vending machines: