The week is co-ordinated by HIV Prevention England (HPE) with support and participation from organisations in the public, statutory and private sectors, and promotes the benefits of regular testing and treatment for both the individual and community.
It raises awareness of the importance of HIV testing, as well as increasing opportunities to test – be it in clinical settings, in primary care, through community-based rapid testing or via postal testing. The ultimate goal is to increase regular HIV testing in the most affected groups.
This year, the event starts on Saturday 18 November.
Testing for HIV
The sooner you’re diagnosed with HIV, the sooner you can start treatment which will keep you well and can stop you passing on the virus. There are now many quick and convenient ways to test.
People can live with HIV for years before having any symptoms. The only way to be sure is to have an HIV test. Find out where to test and how the test will be carried out. You can now even test at home or by post.
What is the test?
A blood test is the usual way HIV is detected. An HIV test can work by detecting:
- antibodies (made by the body to try to fight HIV)
- antigens (a protein found in the HIV cell)
- both antibodies and antigens.
Antigens are present in large quantities in the early weeks after infection and then stop being detectable, whereas antibodies can take up to 12 weeks to be detectable and continue to be so.
If no sign of infection is found the test is ‘negative’.
If infection is found the test is ‘positive’.
Someone who tests ‘positive’ has their blood tested a second time to be absolutely sure the result is accurate.
How long does it take for HIV to show up in a test?
Signs of HIV infection can’t be detected in the blood immediately. It usually happens within four weeks of infection (sometimes longer).
Different tests take different lengths of time before they can detect a recent infection.
If your risk was in the last three months, tell the person testing you as it may affect the type of test they use.
If your risk was recent the testing centre will probably advise you to have a test immediately, followed by a second one a few weeks later (this will pick up any recent infection the first test might have missed).
Very occasionally it can take up to three months for antibodies to appear in the blood, so an HIV negative result is only totally accurate if three months have passed between the test and the last time a risk was taken. However, a negative result four to eight weeks after taking a risk is a very good sign that HIV infection hasn’t happened. But to be absolutely sure another test should be taken around eight weeks later; the testing centre will advise you.
Where to test for HIV:
HIV tests are available free and confidentially from:
- sexual health clinics
- HIV testing centres
- a GP / family doctor.
Please note that if you test with your GP, this will be recorded in your GP notes.
Many local authorities in England fund HIV postal testing for people at risk of HIV. Find out if postal testing is available in your area.
Do I have to pay for HIV testing?
You will not have to pay if you test with your GP, an NHS sexual health clinic or a testing centre . Free postal testing kits are also available from some places.
If you test at a private clinic you will have to pay.
For more information click on the link: HIV Prevention England