HIV tests in the emergency department and urgent care

If you need a blood test while you are in the emergency department or our urgent care centre (A&E), we look for HIV infection in your blood.

HIV is a virus that damages your immune system. This means that it is harder to fight infections and diseases.

Read about HIV and AIDS on the NHS website.

Why we test for HIV

There is no cure for HIV. If left untreated, people with HIV can develop AIDS. AIDS is the name for life-threatening infections that happen when HIV has damaged the immune system.

With early diagnosis and the right treatments, most people with HIV live a long and healthy life.

Many people do not realise they have been at risk of HIV infection. Symptoms can take many years to develop. This is why it is important to be tested.

Our hospitals test people who are over 16 years old when they come to the emergency department or the urgent care centre. We do this in line with guidelines from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Getting your results

A negative result

A negative result means you did not have HIV when we did the test. We do not contact you if your results are negative for HIV infection.

A positive result

A positive result means you have a HIV infection.

If your test is positive, we contact you directly and ask you to come to the hospital. We then repeat the HIV test and confirm your diagnosis. We also do this if the results are unclear.

A team of HIV specialists care for you. They have many years of experience in supporting people to manage the condition.

Testing positive is often a shock, but it is much worse for your health to live with HIV that is not being treated.

The treatment for HIV is very safe and effective. It allows your body to repair the damage to your immune system.

Find out more about living with HIV and AIDS on the NHS website.

Please make sure we have your correct contact details. If they change in the week after your test, call 020 7188 2120.

If you do not want to be tested for HIV

It's always much better to have an HIV test and check if you need life-saving treatment. However, if you do not want to know whether you have HIV:

  • in the emergency department: please speak to a member of staff who will make sure we cancel your HIV test
  • in the urgent care centre: you can simply decline the test and we will not test you for HIV

If you are worried about getting a positive result or have any questions, you can see one of our health advisors.

To make an appointment with our health advisors, please call 020 7188 3517 or 020 7188 7707. You can read more information about our sexual health services.

Insurance and borrowing money

Having a negative HIV test has no effect on getting life insurance or a mortgage.

Even with a positive result, you should not have difficulty getting personal medical insurance, loans or mortgages.

Insurance companies have understood for many years that HIV is a long-term health condition and that people do well on treatment (with almost normal life expectancies).

More information and support

Terrence Higgins Trust is an HIV and sexual health charity in the UK. It gives advice and support to people with HIV and their families.

Resource number: 4124/VER4
Last reviewed: November 2021
Next review due: November 2024

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