HIV frequently asked questions
Here you will find more information about what to do if you think you might have HIV.
What should I do if I’m worried I have HIV?
It is important to get an HIV test as soon as possible if you think you might have HIV. Even if you do not have any symptoms you can still have a test.
You will be offered an HIV test when you attend our sexual health walk-in clinic at the Jefferiss Wing.
How can I get an HIV test?
If you would like an HIV test, you can walk in to our sexual health clinic or book an appointment.
What should I do if I might have recently been exposed to HIV?
Condoms are the best way to protect yourself against HIV. On some occasions, though, you may not use a condom or the condom may break. If this happens, you may be eligible for post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). PEP is a 28-day course of anti-HIV medication which can drastically reduce the chances of you becoming HIV-positive following a high-risk exposure. To access PEP, attend either a sexual health clinic such as the walk-in service in the Jefferiss Wing or your local A&E department within 72 hours. The sooner you start PEP the more effective it will be.
How long does it take before the HIV infection will show up in my blood sample?
Our tests can’t detect HIV immediately after infection. In fact, it can take four to 12 weeks before it becomes detectable, depending on the type of HIV test taken. This period is called the window period. If you are tested for HIV during the window period (less than 4 or 12 weeks between you having sex and having a HIV test), we may ask you to re-test after the window period.
What does the test involve?
We have two types of HIV tests here at the Jefferiss Wing.
- The point of care test (POCT test) - we take a very small sample of blood from a finger prick. This test gives a result within minutes, but has a window period of 12 weeks. So if you are worried about an incident less than 12 weeks ago, this test is not for you.
- The blood test - this involves taking a sample of blood from your arm which we send to the Jefferiss Wing laboratory. The result takes about five days to come back but the four-week window period is shorter.
Additional information for patients
Please see these links and leaflets from trusted sources for helpful information about living with HIV:
- Introduction to antiretroviral treatment (ART) guide from i-Base
- More i-Base guides to living with and treating HIV
- Pocket guides to HIV treatments, adherence and more from i-Base
- Leaflets from the HIV Pharmacy Association
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