Where to get an HIV test
You can be tested for HIV at Chalmers Sexual Health Clinic, your local sexual health service or by your GP.
If you are tested at a sexual health clinic, the results and the fact that you have had a test will be kept in the strictest confidence and will not be entered on your medical records.
If you are tested by your GP, it will still be kept confidential. The fact that you've had a test and the result of the test will be entered on your medical records.
Your GP will not tell anyone the results of that test without your permission or unless there are special circumstances. If a doctor needs to tell someone else, they will discuss this with you ﬁrst.
What's involved in getting tested for HIV?
An HIV test usually involves a trained health professional taking a small amount of blood from you, normally from your arm.
If you get infected with HIV, your body reacts to the infection and produces ‘antibodies’. The test looks to see if you have these HIV antibodies in your blood. If you do have HIV antibodies this means you have HIV and this is usually called being HIV positive.
After you have been exposed to HIV it can take a while for your body to develop HIV antibodies and this is sometimes called the ‘window period’.
Tests will detect most infections after 4 weeks since you were exposed, a negative result at 4 weeks is highly likely to mean you don't have HIV.
You may be offered an additional test at 3 months (12 weeks) to be sure that you don't have HIV.
When will HIV test results be available?
Results normally take around one week, depending on where you have your test done. Results can be available faster than this if there’s a specific reason (for instance if a person is unwell).
What if the result is positive?
If your test shows that you have HIV you will be referred to a specialist for further advice, support and treatment. All of this is free.
Having HIV may be a big shock but remember it is a medical condition and there are treatments that can help you stay healthy and well.
Being HIV positive does not mean that you can’t have a sexual partner but we advise you to discuss your HIV status with any sexual partner (s).
What will a positive result mean for my job and insurance?
Legislation in the UK protects people with HIV from discrimination at work. For most jobs it's up to you whether or not you tell people at work that you have HIV, although there are situations where employers must be informed eg for surgeons or airline pilots. Even if you don’t have to you’re your work, you might want to let your boss know so that you can have time off for medical appointments.
It will still be possible to get life and holiday insurance, although the choice may be limited and they may cost more.
How do I tell my partner if I test positive for HIV?
Some people can feel upset, angry, frightened or embarrassed about discussing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) with their current or former partner(s).
If you do test positive for HIV, your partner may need to be tested, along with some of your previous partners (if you have any).
Sexual health staff can help you by giving advice about who should be contacted and the best way to contact them.
Your clinic can arrange, with your permission, a ‘contact slip’ to be given to your partner(s). This is called ‘partner notification’ or ‘contact tracing’.
The slip explains to the person that they may have been exposed to an STI and that they should go for a check-up. The slip does not give your name, and your details will remain totally confidential.
Nobody can force you to tell your past or present partner or partners about having an STI, but it is strongly recommended. Left untreated, an infection can lead to serious illness.