HIV Blood Test


Terrence Higgins Trust Scotland now offer a free 20 minute HIV test and result. For further information on this please contact 0141 332 3838 or Also if you live the Highlands, you can contact the GUM clinic at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness on Tel 01463 704202. The HIV Consultant here is Dr. Waheed Khan. Dr Khan is an expert on the subject, having worked at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, one of the largest leading centres for HIV treatment in Europe.

Most people will have heard or read about ‘The AIDS Test’, the test however does not show whether someone has AIDS. The test looks for antibodies to HIV – whether someone has been infected with HIV, the virus which can cause AIDS. It’s called the ‘HIV-antibody test’, or ‘HIV test’.

What are Antibodies?
Antibodies are substances in the blood that your body makes to defend itself when you get an infection. Some antibodies protect against specific infections, but HIV-antibodies do NOT protect an infected person from developing HIV-related diseases and possibly AIDS.

Where can I get the test?
In the UK, most tests are carried out by the a NHS sexual health (GUM) clinics – look in the phone book under genito-urinary medicine (GUM). sexually transmitted diseases (STD), or venereal diseases (VD).

You can also call the National AIDS Helpline (FREE) on 0800 567 123 (24-hours, seven days a week).

NHS sexual health (GUM) clinics offer free HIV testing and screening for other infections. All information is kept strictly confidential. You can go to any clinic, anywhere in the country. You don’t have to use a local one and you don’t have to be referred by your GP.

You can also of course get the test from your family doctor or GP – but if you do, it will be entered in your medical records. So – avoid this method if you can!

Advice on HIV Blood Test

  • Biosure HIV Self Test – Discreetly determine your own HIV status at a time and a place that is convenient to you. Simple to read result in 15 minutes.
  • HIV Testing – Advice on HIV testing from various perspectives. Video interviews from individuals.
  • Getting an HIV Test – Advice on HIV testing describing the three types of testing available, including the pro’s and con’s.
  • Help & Advice for HIV/AIDS in the UK – HIV/AIDS service available in the UK, with regional help lines and telephone numbers outside London and inside London.
  • Help & Advice – HIV/AIDS, STD’s and Pregnancy are just some of the topics covered on this excellent page from AVERT.
  • Viral Load & CD4 Count – Why They Matter – An explanation of Viral Load and CD4 Counts.
  • CD4 cell count and viral load – All about CD4 Counts and viral load, helping you decide when to start treatment.
  • Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) – An anti-HIV medication taken by people who are HIV negative to lower their risk of acquiring HIV infection. This is currently being rolled out in Scotland.

What does the test involve?
If you ask for a test at an NHS sexual health (GUM) clinic, you will see a doctor or a trained counsellor (health adviser) in private. They will explain what the test involves and what the results means. Talking to a trained counsellor will give you the chance to discuss your concerns and can help you decide. The final decision will be left to you. Or you can ring the National AIDS Helpline (FREE) – see above for telephone number. The test will go ahead only if you have given consent. A small sample of blood will be taken from your arm, sent to a laboratory and tested. Ask your doctor or counsellor to explain how you will be told of the result.

How long do I have to wait?
It can take from a few hours to a week or more to get the result back. Some clinics can give you the result the same day, but you may have to book in advance. On rare occasions, a test may have to be repeated if the result is not clear or a laboratory error occurs.

What does the result tell me?

HIV Negative

Result – No antibodies to HIV were found in your blood.

It is important to note that it can take up to 12 weeks for antibodies to develop, so the test results will show you your status 12 weeks ago (the window period).

What it means – This usually means that you do NOT have HIV.

HIV Positive

Result – Antibodies to HIV were found in your blood.

What it means – You have HIV. This does not tell whether you have AIDS.

Who gets to know the result?

Your test result, if done at a clinic, should be strictly confidential to you and staff directly concerned with your medical care. Staff will advise you about consulting your GP.

No one will be told the result without your permission!
What are the practical implications?

Look After Yourself – If you HIV+, knowing your status will enable you to seek further advice and counselling about your future health, and provide you with the opportunity to receive treatment which can help protect you against other infections. This will also delay the development of AIDS.

Life Insurance – If you apply for life insurance you will be asked if you are HIV+, if you are, your application is likely to be turned down. By law, the insurance contract will not be valid if you do not give accurate information. You will also be asked to give permission for your GP to provide information from your medical records about any positive HIV test result.

You should NOT be asked if you have ever had an HIV test or if you tested negative

Employment Protection – A number of employers now have a policy that forbids discrimination against people on the grounds of HIV. In some cases, it is unlawful to discriminate against someone with HIV.

Visas – Some countries bar entry to people with HIV or require proof of a negative test result, before they will issue a visa or work permit.

With thanks and acknowledgement to the
Health Education Authority
Trevelyan House
30 Great Peter Street