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The only way to find out if you have HIV is to have an HIV test, as symptoms of HIV may not appear for many years. Anyone who thinks they could have HIV should get tested.
HIV testing is provided to anyone free of charge on the NHS. Many clinics can give you the result on the same day. Home testing and home sampling kits are also available.
Certain groups of people are at particularly high risk and are advised to have regular tests:
Other people at an increased risk of infection include those who share needles, syringes or other injecting equipment.
Read more about how you get HIV.
Seek medical advice immediately if you think there's a chance you could have HIV. The earlier it's diagnosed, the earlier you can start treatment and avoid becoming seriously ill.
Some HIV tests may need to be repeated 1-3 months after exposure to HIV infection, but you shouldn't wait this long to seek help.
Your GP or a sexual health professional can talk to you about having a test and discuss whether you should take emergency HIV medication.
Anti-HIV medication called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) may stop you becoming infected if taken within 72 hours of being exposed to the virus.
Read more about treating HIV.
There are various places you can go to for an HIV test, including:
There are also home sampling and home testing kits you can use if you don't want to visit any of these places.
There are four main types of HIV test:
If the test finds no sign of infection, your result is "negative". If signs of infection are found, the result is "positive".
The blood test is the most accurate test and can normally give reliable results from one month after infection.
The other tests tend to be less accurate and may not give a reliable result for a longer period after exposure to the infection. This is known as the window period.
For all these tests, a blood test should be carried out to confirm the result if the first test is positive.
If this test is also positive, you'll be referred to a specialist HIV clinic for some more tests and a discussion about your treatment options.
Read more about coping with a positive HIV test.
All pregnant woman are offered a blood test to check if they have HIV as part of routine antenatal screening.
If untreated, HIV can be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding. Treatment in pregnancy greatly reduces the risk of passing HIV on to the baby.
Read more about screening for HIV during pregnancy.