Testing for HIV

The following article is useful for those thinking about getting tested for HIV or for those who want to know more about what is involved. It gives information on how and when the tests are carried out and why the tests are needed.

When to get tested for HIV

You should get yourself tested for HIV if you have any reason to think that you may have contracted HIV. This can be due to either taking part in activities that have a high risk of contraction, exposure to the bodily fluids of an HIV infected person or experiencing the symptoms associated with HIV. The testing should also be done as soon as possible as this may aid in the treatment of the infection if there is one. Treatment with anti-HIV medication may also be recommended by your healthcare provider after exposure to HIV.

Where to get tested for HIV

There are various options available to those seeking out an HIV test. In the UK genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics and sexual health clinics provide testing along with some GPs, contraception clinics and antenatal clinics if you're pregnant. Private testing can also be done if you are willing to pay a fee.

Should I use a home HIV testing kit?

Some people may prefer the privacy of a home testing kit for HIV. Care needs to be taken when choosing which tests to use as 'instant' self test kits are illegal in the UK due to their inaccuracy, this means may also not be regulated by any competent authority.

The other legal kits which are available will require the user to send either a blood or saliva sample to the company. It should be noted here that saliva testing is less accurate than blood testing.

What happens during HIV testing?

During HIV testing a sample of blood is normally taken from either the arm or finger. This is then used to check for the presence of HIV antibodies in the bloodstream. If the test generates an HIV positive result then re-testing will be needed to confirm this to a higher degree of confidence.

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