HIV Testing

A HIV test can tell if you have become infected with HIV. HIV tests are extremely accurate. Modern tests can tell if you’ve been infected with HIV very soon after exposure to the virus. If you suspect you may be at risk of contracting HIV, it is very important that it is diagnosed.

This will give you the best chance of getting the treatment care and support you need to stay well.

Being diagnosed with HIV today means something very different than it did 20 or 30 years ago. HIV is no longer a death sentence. However, people’s attitudes can make living with HIV really difficult. It’s time to end HIV stigma. (Source: National AIDS Trust).

The Window Period

Be aware of the ‘Window Period’ – this is the time after exposure to HIV infection; where infection is present but may not be detected by the test, this is known as a ‘false negative’ result.

If a HIV test is performed during this ‘window period’, a person who has recently become infected with HIV may receive a ‘false negative’ result. Because of this you may need to be re-tested.

The ‘window period’ can vary and can last up to three months. Until you have been tested after the recommended time has passed, it’s important to avoid any activities that can transmit HIV.

The key routes of transmission remain:

  • Unprotected penetrative sex
  • Through infected bloods eg sharing needles to inject drugs
  • Mother to baby transmission through pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding

Staff at your GUM (Genitourinary Medicine) clinic will explain all aspects of HIV testing. There are ways you can help protect your sexual health. By reducing the risks, you can protect yourself and others, now and in the future.

Find out more at Sexual Heath Northern Ireland 


Where can I get a HIV test?

HIV tests are widely available - in a sexual health clinic, doctor’s surgery or private clinic. You may also be offered a HIV test as part of care for another health matter, such as maternity care, or as part of a sexual health check-up.

In Northern Ireland, you can get a free and confidential HIV test at any GUM clinic. These clinics are linked into specialist HIV services, and there will be support available to you if your result is positive.

Find out more about our HIV Services

GUM Clinics

In Northern Ireland you can attend any GUM department. These clinics are located at:

  • The Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast
  • The Causeway Hospital, Coleraine
  • Altnagelvin Hospital, Londonderry
  • Daisy Hill Hospital, Newry
  • The Down Hospital, Downpatrick
  • Omagh Hospital, Omagh

Using a free HIV Testing Service in a Non-Clinical setting

‘Rapid HIV Testing’ is available at:

Carrying out the HIV Test yourself

Self-testing HIV kits are also available but you will usually have to pay for one. We would encourage those who test ‘reactive’ for HIV to ensure they seek both medical and emotional support as soon as possible.

A ‘reactive’ or positive self-test result does not mean you definitely have HIV, as a ‘false positive’ result can occur. All positive self-test results need to be confirmed by a HIV test performed by a health professional.