HIV testing: feelings of fear, anxiety and guilt

Taking an HIV test can be stressful. You focus on the risk, however small, that you might be HIV positive.

Even though 99% of tests in a sexual health clinic in the UK are negative, the worry is still real.

It is also stressful because if the risk was recent it will take time to know if you caught HIV.

A test at 3-4 weeks gives you a pretty good answer but will need to be confirmed. A test at 6 weeks is better still. In the UK a negative result after 6 weeks means that you are HIV negative. This is based on using a 4th generation HIV test.

This stress from testing is usually okay. But, for a few people, HIV can become an obsession, This is out of all proportion to the level of risk.

Obsessing on HIV risk can lead to problems out of proprtion to the actual risk. This can become a psychological problem.

Worry and stress can cause symptoms that people then assume is HIV. If you are not sleeping you will feel tired and anxious.

A health advisor can talk you through these fears.

This can often be made worse if you feel ashamed or guilty.

For example:

  • If you usually use a condom but didn’t this one time. Or the condom broke.
  • If this was the first time you had sex, whatever your age.
  • If you tried something new. For example if you are usually straight and had sex with another man.
  • If you are in a relationship and had sex with someone else.
  • If you were paid to have sex or if you paid someone else.
  • If somebody assaulted you. Or they forced you to have sex.
  • If you are already an anxious person and for some reason distrust medicine and science.

There is also a concern for current sexual partners. If you had sex with another partner, this might now change your sex life at home. You will want to protect your partner until you get your test results.

Life is complicated. It is common to do things at some point that you regret afterwards. This happens to most people at some point. It is very common with sex because this is very rarely taught well.

  • Maybe realise that even if you are HIV positive, everything will also be okay. i-Base runs services for people who are actually HIV positive. Whereas you are obsessing from a perspective of someone who is likely HIV negative.
  • A tiny virus might complicate life, but most people still have a long an happy life.
  • Modern HIV treatment means life expectancy is similar to being HIV negative.

If the person that you had sex with had an undetectable viral load, there is ZERO risk of HIV.

PrEP also protects against HIV.

Last updated: 1 June 2021.