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Testing for HIV

Testing for HIV is carried out by looking at a blood sample for HIV antibodies, the body's defence chemicals produced in response to infection. These can be detected from around three months after infection. Before this time their levels may be too low.

Testing is usually carried out at the genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinic of a local hospital, where sexually transmitted infections are diagnosed and treated. Although some clinics offer same-day testing, results are usually available after a week.

Although there are powerful and effective treatments that slow the progression of the disease, it can be difficult for people to come to terms with being diagnosed as HIV positive. For this reason, the decision to take an HIV test can be difficult.

Currently, most people who take an HIV test see a counsellor before having the blood test. The test is explained and the implications of a possible positive diagnosis are discussed.