Frequently asked questions

Answers to some commonly asked questions about HIV testing in pregnancy

1. How is the test done?

2. Who will give me my results?

3. What happens if the result is positive?

4. Can the results be wrong?

5. If I find out that I have HIV, what is the treatment?

6. How effective is the treatment?

7. What happens if I do not want the test?

8. What happens to the test result?

9. Where can I get more information?

1. How is the test done?

It is a done through a blood test that detects antibodies to HIV in the blood and is part of the other blood tests offered in early pregnancy.

2. Who will give me my results?

The doctor or midwife who organised your blood tests will give you your results. Results should be available two weeks after the test is taken.

3. What happens if the result is positive?

When the first test is positive a second blood test is required and is the only way to find out for sure if you have HIV. It may take up to two weeks for those results to come back to you.

Waiting for the result of the second test can be frightening and stressful. Talking about this with your midwife or doctor, and other health professionals often helps.

If you are found to have HIV, professional advice, help and support will be given to help you look after your health, and the health of your baby.

There is no cure for HIV right now but careful management and long term treatment can help you stay well and prevent the virus passing to your baby.

4. Can the results be wrong?

There is a very small possibility that an HIV test result may be positive, even though through further testing, it is found that you do not have HIV. This is because testing is very sensitive and can lead to positive results when you don't have HIV.

There is also a very small possibility that an HIV test may be negative, even though it is later through further testing it is found that you have HIV. This is usually because you have been very recently infected with HIV, and the infection has not yet shown up in a blood test. If you think you are at risk of HIV at any time in your pregnancy you can ask for another test.

5. If I find out that I have HIV, what is the treatment?

Treatment includes:

  • Medicines during pregnancy and birth to help you stay healthy for longer, and prevent   the virus passing to your baby
  • Advice about safe ways for your baby to be born
  •  Medicines for your baby will be offered for a few weeks after birth.
  • Advice about safe feeding for your baby. Here is a link to more information.

For more information on treatments you can go to the Positive Women website.

6. How effective is the treatment?

Very effective treatment and interventions reduce the risk of HIV being passed to your the baby from as much as 32 percent chance to less than 1 percent (for every 100 babies where the mother has HIV, a chance of 32 babies being born with HIV, to less than 1 baby). Early treatment and support for women with HIV is important because it helps them to remain well.

7. What happens if I do not want the test?

You have the right to choose not to have the test. Talk to your midwife or doctor if you have any concerns or do not understand the information that is given to you. Your midwife and/or doctor can help you with your decision.

Remember the HIV blood test can be done at any time of your pregnancy, should you change your mind or think you there may be a chance you have been infected.

8. What happens to the test result?

All your antenatal blood test results including HIV will be sent in confidence to your doctor or midwife.

The results will be included in your maternity notes.

These may be electronic and can be shared with other health professionals involved in your care. Your doctor, nurse or midwife can give you more information.

9.  Where can I get more information?

In this section

  • Your confidentiality is carefully protected. To make sure the programme is safe whether or not you choose to have screening all first antenatal blood screening results are collected for monitoring.
Page last updated: 16 November 2015