• HIV is a virus that spreads from one person to another through bodily fluids such as blood, semen and breast milk.  
  • The virus attacks the body's immune system and over time this damage to the immune system makes it harder and harder for the body to fight off infections and some other diseases.  
  • If you do not get treated, you can get very ill and even die, and you may pass on the virus to other people, particularly if you have sex without a condom.  
  • No cure exists for HIV. However, you can manage the disease by receiving regular medication which can improve your health and reduce the risk of passing on the virus.
  • The aim of the medication called antiretroviral therapy (ART) is to make the level of HIV in the blood so low that it can't be detected by the tests used to measure it. When the virus is undetectable, you cannot pass it on and HIV is not able to damage your immune system.
  • People who take ART regularly can now live almost as long as people without HIV.

HIV is a global problem. Those at particularly high risk of HIV infection are:

  • men who have sex with men
  • people of Black African ethnic origin
  • people who share needles, syringes or other injecting equipment

In the UK, HIV  is more common in people who have lived in countries where there is a high level of HIV such as sub-Saharan Africa.

There are many effective ways to prevent or reduce the risk of HIV infection. Speak to your local sexual health clinic or GP for further advice about the best way to decrease your risk.  Further information about the signs, symptoms, treatment and prevention.

HIV testing

The only way to know whether you have HIV is to get tested.

The earlier you have a test and find out if you have HIV the earlier you can start treatment that will help you live a long and healthy life.  All services are confidential; we will not tell anyone you have had an HIV test. HIV testing and treatment is free for everyone living in Coventry.

Testing options

1.  Self-test

You can order a free HIV test online to be sent to an address of your choice at freetesting.hiv

  • The test kit will arrive in a grey envelope with an address label, a franked postage label and a sticker with a barcode. There is nothing on the package to suggest it contains a test kit or has anything to do with health
  • A small blood sample from a finger is required
  • The sample needs to be placed into a protective case and put into a yellow Freepost envelope, together with your lab card. The envelope can be posted free of charge at any Royal Mail post box
  • The testing service will send a text when the sample arrives at the lab
  • If there is not enough blood or if the sample gets lost or damaged in the post, someone from the testing service will offer another kit to repeat the test
  • Results will be given within three working days of the sample arriving at the lab
  • If you have a negative result, the testing service will notify you by text. You may want to amend the notification settings on your phone, so that text messages are not displayed on your home screen when your phone is locked, if you are worried about privacy
  • If your results indicate you may have an HIV infection, you will be contacted by a member of staff from the testing service who will talk you through what will happen next

If you are worried about how to do the test, watch this short video tutorial to make it easier.

Please note that the testing service will contact you by text message at various stages during the ordering and testing process. If you are worried about your privacy, you may want to amend the notification settings on your phone, so that text messages are not displayed on your home screen when your phone is locked.

2.  Pharmacy Testing

You can go to the following pharmacies to get a free HIV finger prick test that will indicate whether you have HIV in 60 seconds:

  • Tri-Pharm Limited, Henley Green Pharmacy, 53 Broad Park Road, Coventry CV2 1DB
  • Superdrug, 21-23 Market Way, Coventry City Centre, CV1 1DL
  • Vantage Chemist, 130 Far Gosford Street, Lower Stoke, Coventry, CV1 5EA
  • Wood End Pharmacy, 67 Deedmore Road, Coventry CV2 1AX

3.  Testing at a Sexual Health Service

You can go to the Integrated Sexual Health Service which is based on:

3rd Floor, City of Coventry Health Centre, Stoney Stanton Road, Coventry, CV1 4FS (Opposite City College)

Telephone the clinic for further information on 0300 020 0027 or you can also book an appointment with the Integrated Sexual Health Service online.