About 16% of gay men living with HIV in the UK have not been diagnosed. Many of these men believe that they are HIV-negative. Regular testing for HIV by all sexually active gay men will mean that treatment can be started as soon as it is necessary and so fewer gay men get ill. Knowing your HIV status, whether you have HIV or not, means that you can make better decisions about protecting your own health and the health of your sexual partners.

Below you can find useful information on a variety of topics related to HIV-testing. Simply click on the "Read More" button to expand each section.

How often should I get tested for HIV?
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It is recommended that all sexually active gay men who have not been diagnosed with HIV should get tested for HIV at least once a year - even if you always use condoms or you are in a long term relationship. If you are having riskier sex, for example if you have unprotected sex with new partners, then you should test more frequently than this.

Remember that testing for HIV won’t keep you from catching HIV, it just means that you’ll know if you have picked it up.

Where can I get an HIV test?
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London has more places to test for HIV than any other city in the UK. Most GUM clinics and HIV testing centres have health advisors who can talk to you about any worries you have about your sex life.

There is no need to feel embarrassed about going to a sexual health clinic. The staff in the clinics are professionals and should treat you with sensitivity and respect - they've basically seen it all! Services are confidential, but if you still want to use a false name you can do so.

To find the closest clinic or HIV-testing centre in London, visit our London GUM Clinics pages. If you live outside London and want to find out where to get tested, go to the FPA website by clicking here.

Can I test at home?
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We know that getting to a GUM clinic isn’t always convenient but there are services which offer a home-testing kit which can be delivered right to your door step. From the 1st of July, GMFA are no longer funded to provide HIV home-sampling kits to gay men in London. Unfortunately, without the funds to pay for the kits, we can no longer afford to continue this service. 

GMFA remain committed to promoting HIV testing and to reducing the number of people who are living with undiagnosed HIV infection and the number of people who are diagnosed late. Our friends at 56 Dean St provide a similar service for gay men living in England. You can access this service at: http://www.deanstreetathome.com/.

What if I am HIV-positive?
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Being told you have HIV can at first seem like it’s too much to deal with, but it’s not. Try to relax and take things slowly. This will help you work out how you’re feeling and how you can cope during the first few weeks. Some people fear that if they found out they had HIV they wouldn't be able to cope. Most people do cope and there’s no need to panic. Having HIV doesn’t mean you’re going to die tomorrow, next year, ten years from now or even twenty. With effective treatment people with HIV can expect to have a normal life expectancy. 

If you do not get your HIV diagnosed, you will not be able to access treatment, your health will eventually deteriorate and you will be more likely to get sick. How long this takes can vary from a couple of years to over a decade. Without medication, HIV can still be a death sentence. If diagnosed early enough you will have your disease progression monitored so that treatment can start while your immune system is still relatively strong and not vulnerable to opportunistic infections. This reduces your likelihood of developing HIV-related problems and cuts your risk of some cancers and heart disease. If you are on treatment your viral load will be reduced which will make you less likely to pass on the virus to your sexual partners.

If you would like more information about HIV and being HIV-positive, visit our Living with HIV pages.

What if I am HIV-negative?
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If your result comes back as negative, it means that you don’t have the virus, which should give you peace of mind. Knowing you are HIV-negative may help motivate you to stick to safer sex.

For some men in monogamous relationships, the greatest benefit of knowing that they don't have HIV is having sex without condoms and knowing that they won’t pass HIV to each other. Intimacy and sex go hand in hand for most people, and for some men, using a condom for sex feels like a barrier to intimacy. Taking an HIV test with your partner shows a level of commitment and care towards each other. Some studies have indicated that roughly a third of gay men recently infected with HIV thought that it happened while having sex with a regular partner. This is often due to couples abandoning condoms without being certain that both partners are HIV-negative. It's important to test at least once a year, even if you believe that you are in a monogamous relationship.
What if I am afraid to get an HIV test?
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You are not alone in worrying about getting an HIV test, plenty of guys are scared to test. Finding out that you are HIV-positive is not easy but it is no longer a death sentence and once on treatment, you can have a long and fulfilling life. Many guys have anxiety related to HIV tests but a lot of the time, there is no need to worry, especially if you have not done anything to put you at risk. If you want to find out how risky certain sexual acts are for contracting HIV, have a look at our How Risky Is... section. If you are experiencing serious anxiety about getting an HIV test, you could speak to your GP or a Sexual Health Adviser in a GUM clinic. It's a normal worry for many guys and advisors will be more than happy to help.

To see what guys think about getting tested, have a read of some of their testing-related stories on our Blog.

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