TESTING FOR HIV

WHAT IS AN HIV TEST?

You can find out if you have become infected with HIV by having blood tests done at your local sexual health clinic. The test works by detecting antibodies produced by your body in an attempt to fight the virus. The test works by looking for antibodies in your blood to HIV rather than the virus itself.

WHEN SHOULD I HAVE AN HIV TEST?

It normally takes 12 weeks (3 months) for the antibodies to HIV to show up in the blood. So you need to wait for 12 weeks from when you were at risk of being infected for an antibody test to give you an accurate result. The 12 weeks are called the “window period”. If you are tested in the window period and have a negative result you should also be tested again after 12 weeks have passed to be sure of your result. If you are concerned about an incident in the last few days or weeks where you feel you may have been exposed to HIV, you should speak to an adviser at a Genito -Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinic about a number of other tests which could be carried out in clinic at this early stage to identify HIV.

HOW WILL I BE TESTED FOR HIV USING THE RAPID TEST?

The Rapid HIV Test that we use needs a pinprick of blood from your finger. The test result will be available within 1 minute.

WHAT DO THE RESULTS MEAN?

If you have no antibodies in your blood 12 weeks after you were at risk of being infected by HIV you are HIV negative, you do not have HIV. However, this does not mean you can’t be infected in the future.

If you do have antibodies in your blood then the result means you are HIV positive. It is a standard procedure to confirm this result with another kind of antibody test. This will be provided free at an HIV clinic that we refer you to. You can pass the virus onto other people through having sex without having a condom or sharing needles, or any other way described previously.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT BEFORE HAVING AN HIV TEST

Having an HIV test can have a big impact on you whether you have a positive or negative result. Only you can decide if having an HIV test is right for you. You should not be pressured into having a test by other people.

Here are some reasons FOR having an HIV test and some reasons for NOT having an HIV test:

Reasons FOR having a test:

You will know your HIV status. You won’t be worried about what you think your HIV status is. A non-reactive result may give you peace of mind. A reactive result will enable you to access medication, monitoring, and specialist support, which can greatly improve your long term health. If you are HIV positive, the sooner you are diagnosed the more likely you are to get the maximum benefit from HIV treatment. You will be able to make decisions about your future. Women and their partners considering having a baby will be able to take advantage of treatments and other measures that reduce the likelihood of transmitting HIV to the baby. To help you plan the type of sex you want with your partner(s). By always having protected sex, you will be very unlikely to pass HIV on to anyone else.

Reasons for NOT having a test:

A reactive result can mean a lot of stress and impact on your day-to-day life. People may treat you differently if they know you are HIV positive. You may be restricted on traveling or working abroad. A reactive HIV result can make it more difficult to get a mortgage or life insurance. If you have a non-reactive result following behaviour that could have led to becoming HIV positive, you may see no reason to change your behaviour to lower the risk. You may not be able to deal with a reactive result emotionally at this time. It may help you if you know you have someone to support you.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT AFTER HAVING A NON-REACTIVE HIV TEST RESULT

Getting a non-reactive result doesn’t mean you are immune to HIV. You might want to think about the times you were uncomfortable with the risks you have taken and how you might deal with these in the future.

The result tells you what your HIV status was 12 weeks ago. If you have had unprotected sex or shared injecting equipment in the last 12 weeks you may want to take another test within the next three to six months.

This is a result of you and does not tell you anybody else’s status. Don’t assume that your partner has the same status.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT AFTER HAVING A POSITIVE HIV TEST RESULT

This is a result of you and does not tell you anybody else’s status, so don’t assume that your partner has the same status.

A positive result could mean that you can face discrimination from some people if they know about your status.

If you are HIV positive you can pass HIV to other people through unprotected sex or sharing injecting equipment. You may want to make changes in your life. Remember that you may be in shock and might not be thinking very clearly. Try to carry on with your life and work until you have had time to understand and absorb the test result. Try to postpone making major decisions until you have had some time to adjust.

At the moment you might feel that you want to tell lots of people about being HIV positive. It’s important you have someone you can talk to, but at this stage try only to talk to people you really trust. You can always tell people later, but once you have told someone they will always know.

DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE PUT YOURSELF AT RISK OF HIV INFECTION? 

READY TO TAKE THE TEST? Visit: http://www.yoursexualhealthmatters.org.uk/

You can either go to your local Hospital GUM or Sexual Health clinic and receive an HIV test as part of a full sexual health screen or have Rapid test at our clinic which specifically looks for HIV infection.