How do I know if I have HIV?

Having an HIV test is the only way to know for sure whether you have HIV.

If you have HIV, it’s very important that it’s diagnosed. This will give you the best chance of getting the treatment and care you need to stay well.

Usually, when you go for an HIV test, you will have an opportunity to talk to someone first, so you can ask any questions you might have. The person doing the test will explain how the test works and how you will get the results.

Then, depending on the type of test, you have a small sample of blood taken from your arm, or a drop of blood taken from your finger. Some tests are performed using fluid from around your gums.

If the test says you are HIV positive, this means you have HIV. If the test says you are HIV negative, this means you do not have HIV. With some tests, you will need to have a follow-up test if you have a positive result.

In many countries, including the UK, HIV testing is free and confidential.

Where next?

Where can I get an HIV test?

HIV tests are available in lots of healthcare settings. This might be in a sexual health clinic, doctor’s surgery, hospital or private clinic, for example. In many countries, there are also places where you can be tested in your local community.

You may also be offered an HIV test as part of care for another health matter, such as antenatal care while you are pregnant, or as part of a sexual health check-up.

In the UK, you can get a free and confidential HIV test at any NHS sexual health or GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinic. These clinics are linked into specialist HIV services, and there will be support available to you if your result is positive.

In some countries, including the US and the UK, you can buy ‘home sampling’ kits, where you take a sample of blood or saliva yourself at home and then send it to a laboratory to be analysed.

You can use our e-atlas to find HIV testing wherever you are.

Where next?

What does an HIV test involve?

There are several different types of HIV tests. Often a small sample of blood is taken and analysed in a laboratory. Other tests give an initial rapid result using finger-prick blood, or even saliva. It’s often possible to get a test result the same day.

The tests used today can usually tell if a person has HIV within a month of their infection. In the past you might have had to wait three months to be certain that your test result is accurate.

Usually, when you go for an HIV test, you will have an opportunity to talk to someone first, so you can ask any questions you might have. The person doing the test will explain how the test works and how you will get the results.

Where next?

UK HIV test finder

A quick and easy way to find an HIV testing service in the UK that is convenient and right for you.

Find an HIV testing service >