Do you have questions about testing?
Testing is important, but we also recognise it can throw up a lot of anxieties and questions for people. We have done our best to answer some frequently asked questions below. If you have any further questions, feel free to email us on the contact details above, or to have a look at some of our partner’s websites for further information.
The questions are arranged in terms of regular questions we receive before someone tests, and questions that may arise after someone tests.
Before you test
Do I have to have an appointment to use your service?
No, all of our services are drop in services. Simply arrive at least 30mins before the session closes, and you will be seen.
How is HIV transmitted – what counts as a “risk”?
HIV is mainly transmitted through unprotected sex, with receiving anal sex without a condom being the highest risk activity, to unprotected oral sex being the lowest risk activity. You can also get HIV from sharing needles, or from mother to child through breast milk. Mother to child transmission is much rarer in the UK, as mothers are routinely tested for HIV when they are found to be pregnant, and are put on treatment to prevent transmission to their child.
You cannot get HIV from kissing, or touching someone who has HIV.
Someone who is HIV positive and taking effective treatment, can get to a point where their viral load is undetectable. If someone has an undetectable viral load, they cannot pass on HIV.
For more detailed information, there is a good guide to HIV transmission risks on the I-Base website, click here.
I or my partner is showing symptoms of HIV, what do I do?
Some people report flu-like symptoms or a rash after having acquired HIV a few weeks after an initial HIV infection. These symptoms are known as seroconversion illness. Seen alone, these symptoms are not a reliable way to diagnose HIV infection. When you test with us, the practitioner will ask you a series of questions to identify your actual risk of having acquired HIV. Flu-like symptoms without a recent potential risk incident means nothing. For more information on how HIV is transmitted please see: “How is HIV transmitted – what counts as a “risk”” above.
When should I test?
We encourage people who are sexually active to test at least once a year. If you are having more risks, such as multiple partners and unprotected sex (sex without a condom), we recommend you test more regularly (every 3 – 6 months.)
We do not recommend you test more regularly than every 3 months, because of the window period of our tests (see “What type of test do you use and how accurate is the test?” for more information.)
I had unprotected sex very recently, and I am concerned, what should I do?
If you have had unprotected sex in the last 72 hours, and have reasonable concerns about HIV transmission, you may be able to access PEP. For more detailed information on PEP and where to access this, please click here.
If you have had unprotected sex in the last 72 – 120 hours, and are worried about pregnancy, you may be able to access emergency hormonal contraception (previously known as the morning after pill), local pharmacies, GP’s and sexual health clinics can offer this, please have a look at the NHS Choices website, here.
Do I have to fast/ do anything special before I test/ will certain medications I am taking affect the test?
No, HIV antibody tests are not affected by other infections, medications, eating or drinking, alcohol or drug use.
What type of test do you use and how accurate is the test?
Positive East uses a finger prick test for HIV. This is an antibody test for HIV, which means a negative test is conclusive (has a window period) of 3months, and a negative test is 95% conclusive at 6weeks. This means if you come and test with us less than 3months after your last potential risk for HIV, we will advise you to re-test again after 3months.
If you are very concerned about a risk that has happened, you can always access your local GUM clinic who can take your blood (serology) and give you a definite result after 4 weeks from your potential exposure. Check our clinic finder on “find a test”, for your local GUM clinic.
Our tests have a 3 in 1000 “false positive” rate. This means that in 3 out of 1000 cases, a positive result on our tests, may not mean that you have the virus. As a result, we do not use the term “positive” with our tests, only reactive. If you have a reactive result, we will refer you for a confirmatory test at a local GUM clinic, (see “What if I am positive” for more information).
What type of STIs do you screen for?
We provide a-symptomatic screening (i.e. screening when there are no symptoms) for the following STIs:
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
All of these infections have different “window periods” i.e. times until they show up on a test. 3 months from potential exposure is enough to be sure whether you have or do not have the STIs above.
After you test
How long until I receive my HIV & STI results?
It takes around 2minutes for your HIV result to come through, and 2 weeks for your STI results to come through.
This means, if you test with us, you will receive your HIV results almost immediately, but you will have to wait up to 2 weeks for your STI results, which you will receive from Barts NHS Results team, by text or email.
What if I am positive?
We will not give you a “positive” result for HIV. If your HIV test with us is reactive, which indicates a high possibility that you have come into contact with the virus, you will be referred for a confirmatory blood test at a local GUM clinic. We can arrange this for you.
If your confirmatory test comes back positive for HIV, we have a range of support services you can access if you live in East London, or access your treatment in East London.
With treatment, HIV is increasingly becoming a manageable health condition. Early diagnosis means early treatment, which means a long and healthy life.
If you are positive for another STI, you will be contacted by Barts NHS Trust results team, who will discuss how to bring you in to a local clinic for treatment.
How do I stay negative?
The best protection against HIV and other STIs is consistent and regular condom use. Positive East will provide you with free condoms should you want them, and if you are under 25 you can sign up for the C-Card scheme, which gives you free condoms throughout London: www.comecorrect.org.uk
You can also access that website and watch videos on how to put on a condom to ensure that you are using condoms correctly.
Finally, Freedoms provides subsidised condom prices, which you can buy discretely online: www.freedoms-shop.com/
PrEP is a medication that has been shown to almost eliminate HIV transmission by 100% when used effectively. For more information on PrEP, see the I-Base website, www.i-base.info/guides/prep
PrEP is not currently freely available on the NHS, and Positive East cannot provide PrEP. Some people are buying their own PrEP online, or are accessing PrEP as part of an NHS trial. The I-Base website has more information about all of this.
I haven’t had my STI results back – help.
The STI screening that Positive East provides is on behalf of Barts NHS Trust. The results team there will be able to help you if you haven’t had your results back within 2 weeks. You can contact them directly on: 0207 3777 7650.
The line is often busy, so do please keep trying between 10am – 5pm, Monday to Friday.