HIV

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can attack the body's immune system, meaning you may not be able to fight infection and you can become unwell.

Most HIV is contracted sexually. It can be passed on through:

  • infected blood
  • semen
  • vaginal fluids
  • rectal secretions
  • breast milk.

It is most often transmitted through:

  • having sex without a condom
  • sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug equipment
  • breastfeeding.

Around a quarter of the estimated 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK do not know that they have the virus, and around half of people newly diagnosed with HIV are diagnosed after the point at which they should have started treatment. This means that people may pass on the virus to others. People diagnosed late may be at greater risk of infections if they do not receive treatment at the right time.

Find out how to get emergency HIV treatment.

You can order a free HIV test to take in the privacy of your own home.

The test kit contains everything you need to collect a blood sample and return it to the laboratory for testing.

Get a test

Get tested

Everyone who is sexually active should have an HIV test, and regular tests if they are at higher risk.

The best time to test is 3 months after you think you may have been exposed to HIV, but you can get tested at any time. Some blood tests can test for HIV as soon as 4 weeks after you think you may have been exposed to it.

You should always get tested if you think you might have put yourself at risk, even if it was a long time ago. It's better to know if you have HIV so you can get the right treatment as early as possible.

Symptoms

The symptoms can occur just after being infected with HIV – this is called primary HIV infection or sero-conversion.

The symptoms of primary infection are similar to flu and include:

  • a sore throat
  • a high temperature
  • a rash.

After sero-conversion has taken place, a person can be well and have no symptoms for a long time. This is a time when people with HIV can still be infectious to others and often remain undiagnosed.

Results and treatment

If you have a reactive test you will be advised to have a second test to confirm the result as soon as possible. The results bureau will advise you how to do this.

Advances in the treatment and management of HIV mean that many people are now able to live a normal life for many years with this condition.

Living with HIV

Find out about the services we offer to support people living with HIV.

Care and support

Find out where to get help if you or someone you care for needs support due to illness.

Condoms

Find out how to get condoms.