HIV Testing Week 2024

National HIV Testing Week (NHTW) runs from 5th - 11th February, and is a campaign to promote regular testing in England, particularly among groups most affected by HIV, including gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) and heterosexuals of Black African ethnicity. Regular testing helps to reduce the number of people living with undiagnosed HIV and those diagnosed late.

HIV important facts:

  • HIV is most commonly spread through vaginal or anal sex without a condom, sharing drug injecting equipment, sharing sex toys and coming into contact with contaminated blood.
  • HIV cannot be passed on by kissing, hugging, shaking hands, sharing space with someone, sharing a toilet, sharing household items or any other general social contact.
  • HIV is prevented by testing regularly, wearing condoms during sex, using HIV prevention medicines such as PrEP, and becoming undetectable through treatment.

Why is it important to test for HIV?

It’s a good idea to test at least once a year, because testing is the only way to know if you have HIV. Some people don’t notice any symptoms at all. If you wait to test, the virus could do a lot of damage. 

Testing is quick, free, and confidential. It's also an easy way to take responsibility for your health. If you have HIV, finding out means you can start treatment, stay healthy and avoid passing the virus onto anyone else. The sooner you start treatment, the less likely you are to become seriously ill. People who are diagnosed early and get on treatment can expect to live a normal lifespan.

How can I test for HIV?

It’s never been easier to get an HIV test and to get a result quickly. You can get a test in person at one of our sexual health clinics, or order a self-test kit online. 

You can test in person at:

  • A sexual health clinic.
  • An HIV testing centre, including those run by HIV and sexual health community organisations such as Trade Sexual Health
  • A GP/family doctor.

During HIV Testing Week (5-11 Feb), you can order a testing kit for HIV that gives you the option of a rapid test too, for results in minutes. You can also order a free at-home test kit via the link below.

When should I test?

Signs of HIV infection don’t show up in the blood right away. It normally happens within four weeks of infection, but can be longer. If you think you might have been exposed to HIV in the last 72 hours (three days), it’s possible to take post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to help stop an infection from happening.

If your risk was recent, you might be advised to take a test immediately, followed by a second one a few weeks later. A self test is not guaranteed to pick up an infection that’s occurred in the previous three months. If you think you’ve been exposed in the last three months, you should get a test in person.

What if my test is positive?

It’s important to know that HIV is a manageable condition and someone with HIV on active treatment can live a long and healthy life. In fact, treatment is so good now, that someone who is taking HIV treatment reliably can have such low levels of the virus in their body that they can’t pass it on. 

There is a lot of information and support available for people who test positive. Find out more on the Terrence Higgins Trust website.

More information

You can find more information on HIV Testing Week on www.startswithme.org.uk and can download resources to support the campaign at www.hperesources.org.uk.

Midlands Partnership Foundation NHS Trust Providing Sexual Health Services in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. Services commissioned by Leicester City and Leicestershire and Rutland County Councils.