HIV testing

Testing is the only way to be sure of your status

Who should test? and how often?

In London there are two groups who are disproportionately affected by HIV:

  1. Men who have sex with men (MSM, also referred to as gay or bisexual men): are advised to have an HIV test and Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) screen at least annually, or every three months if they are having condomless sex with new or casual partners.
  2. Black African men and women are advised to have an HIV test, and a STI screen, if they are having condomless sex with new or casual partners.

Alongside testing, condoms can protect you from other STIs, until all partners have received their results. PrEP is another very effective method of protecting you against HIV, though it does not protect against other STIs.

Getting an HIV test

  1. Sexual Health London – An easy, free, and discreet home sampling service.

The easiest way to get tested for HIV (and other STIs) is by ordering a home sampling kit through Sexual Health London.

Simply register at www.doitlondon.shl.uk and complete an online consultation to order your free kit.

Once the kit has arrived, you collect the required samples yourself (there are online guidance tools to assist you). When completed, you send the samples to the lab for testing and you will then be notified of the result a few days later by text or email.

The service is available to everyone aged 16 and over who are residents in most London boroughs.  If you live in Croydon, Greenwich or Hillingdon use these alternatives.

Register now at www.doitlondon.shl.uk

 

  1. Sexual Health Clinics

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sexual health clinics currently have reduced access and walk ins are not always available. It is recommended you order a home testing kit from Sexual Health London in the first instance. If you want to see someone in person you should telephone your nearest clinic in advance and follow their instructions.

Click here to find your local clinic and their contact details.

Sexual health clinics have reduced access – always telephone before attending in person

 

  1. Other options for HIV testing include private self-testing kits which give you the result within minutes:

Links provided are to trusted and partner-assured sites providing self-test kits.

Find an HIV test centre near you

Order a HIV self-testing kit

Find a sexual health clinic near you

Order a free HIV self-sampling kit

Frequently Asked Questions

Testing for HIV (and other STIs) is free at your local GP practice, at a sexual health clinic or from an outreach service. As detailed in the ‘Getting an HIV test’ section of this page, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that face to face services have restricted access and you should always call in advance. Alternatively, most Londoners can register at http://www.doitlondon.shl.uk/ and order a home testing kit free of charge.

The only reason you should be paying for a HIV test is if you choose to order a testing kit from a private supplier (two trusted providers are listed on this page).

Even if you are an international student, a short-term visitor, a migrant from abroad, or an asylum seeker – no matter what your residency status – having an HIV test is free and confidential. Self-testing (where you test yourself and see the result straight away) carries a fee of around £30, but some boroughs and charities are making this available for free to certain communities.

HIV self-test kits available to purchase in the UK must meet a number of requirements related to test performance, labelling and instructions for use. All tests that meet these required standards will be given a CE mark. This means that when used as intended, CE marked self-test kits will work properly and be acceptably safe. So you should check for the CE mark:

You should consult your GP or contact your sexual health service if your concerns or symptoms persist, or if you have any worries about your health. Please be aware that due to the COVID-19 pandemic some services are not accepting walk ins and you should call in advance.

If you have condomless sex then you may also be at risk of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or blood borne viruses such as Hepatitis B and C. Some of these infections have no symptoms, so regular screening is recommended. Please view the ‘Getting an HIV test’ section on this page for details on how to get tested; many of the providers listed (including SHL and your local sexual health clinic) will also provide STI testing kits.

You can reduce your risk of acquiring HIV by:

  1. Using Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).
  2. Using a condom correctly and consistently – and until all partners have received a negative STI and HIV screen.
  3. Having an HIV test. Early HIV diagnosis improves your health as you receive NHS treatment and care.
  4. Reducing your number of sexual partners and avoiding overlapping sexual relationships.
  5. If diagnosed with HIV, follow the instructions of your doctor who will prescribe medication. Taking this medication will most likely result in “undetectable” status. Having an undetectable viral load (UVL) means that you cannot pass HIV on to your sexual partner(s).

Why is Testing Important?

Testing for HIV is quick, easy, and confidential.

Getting tested is the first step in understanding what the best course of action is to look after your health.

If your test result is negative, you can be sure which method of prevention will then be effective in protecting you from HIV: condoms and/or PrEP.

If you test positive, you can promptly start HIV treatment before the infection begins to damage your health. Medication taken correctly suppresses the virus in your body to what is called ‘undetetectable’ levels, meaning you cannot pass the virus on and will live a healthy life (find out more on our Undetectable page).

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