The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) transmitted by the exchange of blood or body fluids such as vaginal secretions or semen. The commonest way of acquiring HIV is through unprotected vaginal or anal sex. There are two types of HIV viruses, HIV 1 and 2. HIV 1 is the most common type worldwide.
It is estimated that 1 in 650 people are living with HIV in the UK (Health protection Agency data). Approximately one third of people with HIV are unaware that they have the infection.
HIV is a fragile virus and does not live outside the body for long. Therefore, it cannot be transmitted by shaking hands, kissing or by routine sharing of household items such cutlery, glasses or toilet seats.
HIV Incidence Figures
Latest Health Protection Agency (HPA)- 18 % decline HIV Diagnoses since 2015. 21 % decline among MSM (Men who have sex men).
Important likely factors include improved prevention because of easy access to rapid testing, improved treatment especially when diagnosed early.
HIV attacks the immune system, weakening it and impairing its ability to fight other infections.
The initial stage of infection is known as Primary HIV Infection and occurs 1 to 6 weeks after infection. The symptoms are very similar to glandular fever and include fever, sore throat, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting, enlarged lymph glands and a widespread rash. Not everyone who has acquired the infection will have symptoms.
The initial stage may last for around 4 weeks and after this, the majority of people will be well with no symptoms for many years. This is known as asymptomatic HIV infection,
With time, however, the immune system becomes weak and is incapable of fighting of minor illnesses. Symptoms at this stage include weight loss, night sweats, persistent diarrhoea, tiredness, recurrent severe thrush or herpes infections. Following this, more severe or life threatening illnesses develop. This is the final stage of HIV and is called AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). With treatment, the likelihood of developing AIDS is reduced.
Diagnosis of HIV
- The test of choice is a 4th generation assay, the HIV Duo test or Alere test. This looks for HIV 1 and 2 antibodies and the P24 antigen. The p24 antigen can become detectable from 10 days post contact. We usually recommend testing from one month for optimum accuracy. Fourth Generation HIV tests are recommended by BASH ( British Association of Sexual Health) in their 2008 guidelines regarding HIV testing. A 4th Generation test such as the HIV Duo blood test or the Alere (finger prick) point of care test can detect the majority of infected persons from 28 days after a specific sexual contact. Results 4-5 hours at our flagship clinics in Moorgate, Canary Wharf & Shard.
- The Fastest HIV test is our HIV antibody test –Insti HIV test (Results in 60 Seconds from simple finger prick), which is accurate from 28 days and conclusive from 90 days.
- Our Early methods of screening worldwide for HIV is the Early HIV test (DNA PCR), which is very accurate from 10 days after the exposure.
Earliest HIV Screening
The early Screen utilises DNA testing to provide highly accurate results for HIV and Hepatitis C from 10 days after exposure. The screen uses PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) technology, which amplifies viral genetic material. The test is both sensitive and specific allowing detection of even very small numbers of viral particles to provide early diagnosis.
The Early Screen has revolutionised testing for HIV and Hepatitis C by reducing the window period (the time from infection to the detection of the virus) from 28-90 days to just 10 days.
Rapid Expert HIV Test (Moorgate, Shard & Canary Wharf only)
Introducing our Rapid Expert HIV test. This extremely accurate DNA HIV test, provides Same Day/Next Day results. Our partner laboratory is the prestigious TDL (The Doctors Laboratory).
Early HIV Screen (Nationwide)
At our other nationwide clinics-our alternative earliest test is the Early HIV Screen. This screen provides accurate results using DNA (PCR) testing from 10 days after contact for both HIV 1 and 2 and hepatitis C. Results are available within 4-6 working days (Rest of UK).
2015 Update- British Association Sexual Health Guidance 2015. Advise that a fourth generation test such as the HIV DUO test can provide definitive results from 28 days post exposure for low risk contacts. For high risk contacts a further test at 8 weeks is advised.
Although there is no cure for HIV, treatment is effective at maintaining a normal life. It is important to remember that HIV is not AIDS and people on treatment rarely go on to get AIDS.
Nowadays with the advent of effective treatment, HIV does not equate to early death and it is now considered a manageable chronic illness like Diabetes. Therefore, getting diagnosed early and starting on treatment is essential.
PrEP( pre-exposure prophylaxis) involves taking a combination of drugs similar to those used to treat HIV, but taken for prevention.
NHS England has funded a 3 year trial of PrEP ( pre-exposure prophylaxis) where over 10 thousand individuals will take part. It is hoped to have a significant impact on HIV rates in the UK.
|Name of Test||Results / Turnaround||Price|
|Early HIV Test|
From 10 days
|Same Day Result (If taken before 12pm)|
London Clinics Only
|Instant Result HIV Test|
From 45 days
Central London & Nationwide