Sexual & General Health
HIV and AIDS
Get HIV Tested
Help yourself and your community
The how, where and why of HIV testing
HIV testing is now simple, fast and nearly always free. You can even do it by post.
HOW and WHERE
In lots of ways this depends on you, firstly do you want to talk to someone about being tested? This can be especially beneficial if this is your first test or if you think you might have other STIs. In this case visiting a GUM/STI/STD clinic is the place to go. Here you will get a nurse or doctor to talk to and they will help you through the process and the stress that can come while waiting for the results. You can use any clinic in the country – great if you're worried about bumping into a old school friend – and you don't even need to use your real name.
Conveniently there are postal services, and here you have several options, though not all are available all year around or in all areas or even to all ages, and they don't even offer the same test. If you need to put in a postcode to check a service works in your area (but don't want to use your own) then try entering the postcode for a nearby public building (search Google for your local council's offices for example). Of course you will need to use your own postcode if you do then go on to place an order!
There are three types of postal test: the first is the simplest as you simply take a mouth swab and post it back, but it will not detect a new HIV infection (that is, if you got the virus within the previous 14 weeks). For the second test you have to post away a little blood: the upside of this test is that it is more sensitive and will detect a new HIV infection that is just four weeks old. In either case you will then be contacted with your result (which will usually be just a text if you are negative). The third is a paid service (£30) which can only detect HIV infection older than 12 weeks, the benefit to this service is that it give a result in 15 minutes at home with a little blood.
By Post for those living in England (or if you have a friend living in England willing to receive post for you)
On this site they have a good Question and Answer section and its worth completing it to ensure you take the right test.
Visit the Dean Street at Home site for a postal HIV test in England.
By post in Scotland
The only home test available in Scotland for free is one where you have to post away a spot of blood. If you would like the instant test in Scotland (and are sure your possible exposure is more than 14 weeks ago) you unfortunately will have to pay (see below) or visit a local sexual health clinic.
Visit the THT site for a postal HIV test in Scotland.
By post in Wales and Northern Ireland
As far was we can see your only options in Wales or Northern Ireland are to pay or go to a sexual health clinic. If you know differently please let us know.
Buying a HIV test kit
The important warning here is to buy a British CE marked product, do not get enticed by cheap internet alternatives. The prices range from £12 for a saliva test (Lloyds Pharmacy only) and £30 for a blood and post test. It seems that to buy a test kit you have to receive it by post, though Lloyds Pharmacy hint that a pick up service might be possible. The 15 minute test is available from the NHS online sexual health shop or from Biosure direct (the makers of the test).
Here are a few of the pay options:
Lastly, please do not use the blood donating service as a way to test because their tests (like the ones you can buy) cannot detect a new (less than 4 weeks old) infection and if your blood does contain HIV there is a risk you could infect another person in this way.
WHY and WHAT if its POSITIVE
Knowing is better for you and for your sexual partners.
If you are HIV positive the earlier you start medication to combat HIV the better your longterm health will be. Untreated HIV slowly damages and breaks down the immune system, only showing when you are very ill. HIV medication prevents this damage and keeps you healthy for longer. For most people medication is now a single tablet once a day. If left untreated and you get ill with HIV the tablets against HIV will still help but your body will take a long time to recover and may never be as good as if you had had early treatment.
For your sexual partners, the benefit is that when you are on treatment the amount of HIV in your blood and semen is dramatically reduced – not to zero so condoms should still be used, but to a level that if an accident occurs the risk of transmission is many many times lower than it would have been without treatment.
Long-term if everyone who is HIV positive goes on to medication that works for them with an undetectable viral load, it is possible in time to dramatically reduce the number of people getting HIV.
Bottom line: if you have sex, especially penetrative sex then test.
Douglas T Newberry, November 2015