Getting tested for HIV means that, if you are infected with the virus, you can receive treatment and care before the infection causes too much damage to your body and health.
It is really important to get tested regularly for HIV if you are sexually active and when you change sexual partners because HIV often has no symptoms. Someone with undiagnosed HIV might look and feel healthy for years, but the infection will damage their health if left untreated. They are also likely to pass on the infection to their sexual partners.
HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids (such as semen, vaginal fluid and blood). Most cases of HIV transmission in London are through sex, which is why condoms and lubricant are really important in reducing that risk. Condoms also protect against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis.
Getting an HIV test
The only way to know if you have been infected with HIV is to take an HIV test. Putting off having a test could be harmful to your health – if you do have HIV, you will receive the best NHS treatment and care. So the sooner you find out, the better.
There are many places to take a free HIV test and all services are completely confidential. You should decide where you would feel most comfortable being tested.
- your GP surgery (ask your doctor or practice nurse whether your surgery offers HIV testing)
- sexual health clinics or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics at hospitals
- some contraception and young people’s clinics
- some pharmacies across London
- an antenatal clinic, if you are pregnant
- local drugs agencies, if you are an injecting drug user
- a private clinic.
You can also purchase the UK’s first legally approved HIV self-testing kit from the NHS.
Find out more about HIV, and how self-sampling differs from self-testing, by reading our HIV Testing: Frequently Asked Questions.