HIV testing week web chat 22 November

Join us on Tuesday 22 November 2016 between 13.00 and 14.00 for a live web chat to mark HIV testing week.

Nicola Mackie

This is your chance to speak directly to Nicola Mackie, consultant in genito-urinary medicine and head of specialty for HIV medicine, and Nicholas Osborn, senior nurse in HIV based at the Trust’s Wharfside emergency HIV clinic. Our experts will answer your questions about HIV transmission, testing, treatment and why testing is so important.

Everyone, including patients, the public, GPs and other health workers are invited to submit questions. All questions can be submitted anonymously.

You can submit your question here from 12.30 on Tuesday 22 November. You're also welcome to email questions to or tweet your questions to @ImperialNHS.

You can also keep up with the chat by following us on Twitter: @ImperialNHS.

Dr Nicola Mackie: 
Right, we're here and ready to get started!
Comment From anon 
How long do you have to wait to get the results of your HIV test?
Dr Nicola Mackie: 
We have two types of tests. There is a rapid test available [which is a finger-prick test] where initial results are available within five minutes, although any reactive result needs to be confirmed. In this case, you would need to have the second type of test. 

The other type of test is a venous blood sample [standard blood test] and results can be available within 24 to 48 hours.
Comment From guest 
What is the HIV test? Does it hurt?
Dr Nicola Mackie: 
This is a standard blood test or a finger-prick test - nothing more than a sharp scratch!
Comment From newww 
I'm monogamous, do i need to get tested?
Dr Nicola Mackie: 
Anyone who has been sexually active may benefit from an HIV test. There are a proportion of patients living with HIV who are not aware of their infection. An earlier diagnosis results in better treatment outcomes. Also, it is important to know your partner's HIV status.
Comment From ANON 
where can i go to get tested?
Dr Nicola Mackie: 
There are many settings where you can test: in hospitals, sexual health clinics, community settings, and home-based tests. 

If you wanted to test here at Imperial, there are a number of options: You can book online via our Check & Go service via the link on our website or via the Zesty website. There are early morning appointments available every day from 8am, except on Wednesdays

You can also walk in to the Jefferiss Wing sexual health clinic at St Mary's Hospital without an appointment and have an HIV test with or without a full infection screen. Full opening hours are listed here.

Dr Nicola Mackie: 
There is a specialist clinic for men who have sex with men and bisexual men called GUYS at St Mary's, which takes place between 5.30 and 7.15pm on a Wednesday evening. Appointments can be booked by calling 020 3312 6626. More details are available here.
Comment From Guest 

Is it true that if your viral load is undectable you can have sex with out condoms and you will not pass on the HIV?
Dr Nicola Mackie: 
There is increasing data from studies that show that if an HIV-positive individual's viral load is consistently 'undetectable' [for more than six months] the risk of transmission of HIV to a negative partner is extremely low, if not negligible. 

That said, consistent condom use continues to protect against other sexual infections and transmission of HIV from individuals who may be unaware of their status or not on treatment.
Comment From jh 
if the HIV test comes back positive, what do I do? can I be treated straight away?
Dr Nicola Mackie: 
Firstly, we would always confirm a positive result with a second test. You will then see a number of healthcare professionals within a two-week period - if not sooner - who will explain about the natural history of HIV, treatment options, pros and cons of starting treatment, and generally offer support around this diagnosis. 

There is now clear data that starting therapy earlier [even in someone with no clear evidence of damage to the immune system] is of benefit and therefore, we would recommend starting therapy as soon as possible when that individual is ready to do so.
Comment From Anon 
Who are the groups of people that don't get tested but should?

Dr Nicola Mackie: 
We see HIV diagnoses across all demographics [sexuality, ethnicity]. Men who have sex with men remain at the highest risk of HIV acquisition, representing 54 per cent of all new diagnoses in 2015.

We have unacceptable rates of individuals diagnosed at a late-stage of HIV in the UK. This particularly affects heterosexual men [55 per cent of new diagnoses last year], black African men and women [53 per cent], and heterosexual women [49 per cent]. 

Some of the reasons for this include stigma around HIV testing, fear of a positive result, perception that an individual is not at risk, and tests not being offered enough.
Comment From anon 
I heard that if you have an HIV test too soon after infection, it won't show up in the results. is this true?
Dr Nicola Mackie: 
Yes, you are correct. It can take at least two to four weeks for a test to become positive following exposure and subsequent infection. We would not perform a finger-prick test if we suspected recent infection as this test is less sensitive. In this situation, we would use a venous blood test. If these tests are negative, we would always advise people to return for a repeat test eight weeks after potential risk.
Comment From CC 
Are test results always posted on an individuals health record?
Dr Nicola Mackie: 
If you walk in to our sexual health clinic in the Jefferiss Wing, medical notes and test results are kept in a separate notes library within the building and are confidential.

Dr Nicola Mackie: 
That's all the time Dr Mackie has for today - she's heading back to clinic now! Thanks to everyone who participated. You can find more information about our sexual health and HIV services on our website