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BHIVA/BASHH/BIA Adult HIV Testing guidelines 2020


The elimination of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission in the UK is now considered to be an achievable ambition. To attain this target all individuals living with undiagnosed HIV will need to be offered testing and commenced on antiretroviral therapy (ART). The early initiation of ART, regardless of CD4 cell count, has clear benefit for the individual (with avoidance of morbidity and mortality), their partners (avoidance of transmission by having an undetectable viral load) and public health (reduced community viral load and HIV transmissions). Although significant progress has been made in the UK, with falling HIV incidence and near universal ART coverage in those diagnosed, there remains a significant proportion who are undiagnosed (7% in 2018), present late (43% in 2018), and continue to experience morbidity and mortality and contribute to the ongoing transmission of HIV.

These guidelines include a number of recommendations regarding HIV testing. The approaches described need to be adopted and adapted based on local HIV prevalence data, populations and services. Not all approaches are relevant in all areas (e.g. seroprevalence-based testing). In areas of lower prevalence some approaches (e.g. indicator condition testing, risk groups and home sampling/testing) become increasingly important to ensure all those at risk are offered/able to request a test. However, in areas of high and extremely high prevalence, the other approaches should also be instigated in order to widen the potential reach of testing those with undiagnosed HIV. While cost-effectiveness of testing programmes is relevant for some approaches (e.g. indicator condition testing and high local seroprevalence), it should not be universally applied as the cut-off threshold for testing programmes as we work towards the elimination of HIV. All stakeholders should engage in devising a comprehensive approach best suited to their local situation.

Main changes included in the present guidelines:

  • Indicator condition testing recommendations now have a broader evidence base;

  • New recommendation to offer testing in emergency departments in areas with high/extremely high HIV seroprevalence;

  • Recommendation for testing based on local diagnosed HIV seroprevalence now divided into two categories (high and extremely high) with different recommendations, in line with National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance;

  • Change to the window period for fourth-generation serology to 45 days.


British HIV Association/British Association for Sexual Health and HIV/British Infection Association Adult HIV Testing Guidelines 2020 NHS Evidence accredited provider

Additional information
Literature search strategy

Rapid guidance on opt-out BBV testing
BHIVA, BASHH, BIA and RCEM guidance on opt-out BBV testing: February 2024

Consultation comments
Comments received by the BHIVA Secretariat during the public consultation process

Declaration of interests
Declaration of interests from writing group members

Non-technical summary

View non-technical summary

Please note: The non-technical summary is less detailed than the full guideline and if you are reading this because it is relevant to your own healthcare, please do discuss any concerns or questions with your healthcare professionals.

Writing group

Dr Adrian Palfreeman (BHIVA Chair), Dr Ann Sullivan (BASHH Chair), Professor Tim Peto (BIA Chair), Dr Anna Buckley, Dr Fiona Burns, Dr Daniel Clutterbuck, Dr Ian Cormack, Ms Sara Croxford, Dr Gillian Dean, Dr Valerie Delpech, Ms Jo Josh, Ms Chamut Kifetew, Dr Nick Larbalestier, Dr Nicola Mackie, Dr Philippa Matthews, Mr Martin Murchie, Dr Anthony Nardone, Dr Paul Randell, Dr Michael Rayment, Dr Hannah Skene, Ms Kat Smithson, Mr Roy Trevelion, Dr Karen Trewinnard, Dr Laura Waters, Mr Alan White, Dr Emma Young

Peer review

The guidelines were peer reviewed by Prof Claudia Estcourt, Glasgow Caledonian University, and Prof Deniz Gökengin, Ege University, Turkey.

Guideline updates and date of next review

The guidelines are scheduled for full review by September 2025.


Palfreeman A, Sullivan A, Rayment M et al. British HIV Association/British Association for Sexual Health and HIV/British Infection Association adult HIV testing guidelines 2020. HIV Med 2020; 21 Suppl 6: 1-26.


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