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Patient request tests

Here we consider how to support our patients to ask for an HIV test – should they want one.

We would offer HIV testing but no one ever asks’ is a reason sometimes given by practices with very low use of HIV testing.

In fact the bulk of HIV testing in general practice depends on clinicians being proactive and offering tests to patients who may or may not have ever considered having a test.

Where staff have normalised HIV testing ‘patient request’ tests form a small proportion.

However there are steps you can take to help a patient who is wondering about having an HIV test to actually ask for one.

You and your team can work these out together by doing this team game ‘Feel Free to Ask!

Key information

Feel Free to Ask!

A whole team game for your practice.

Have a look at – and download – ‘Feel Free to Ask!’ - a game for all members of your team (with instructions and materials to do this role play exercise). It will take around an hour, and you will need to lead it and organise them!

Patients who wanted to ask for an HIV test

Ben, 34
I moved into this area about a year ago. I had wondered about having an HIV test in the past but never got round to it. When I went to my new practice for the first time, I noticed that the health information slides in the waiting room included one that encouraged HIV testing. I was going to ask the nurse I saw, but actually she offered a test anyway. I am happy my test was negative, and am very happy with my new practice.
Joy, 43
My friend had an HIV test, and she was encouraging me to have one, as there is a lot of HIV back in my home country. I had to go to see my doctor for my usual medication, and thought of asking…but I didn't do it… I will try harder next time I go to see him. I think I should have a test.
Priti, 27
It seems sensible to have an HIV test these days, especially as it looks like I am starting a new relationship. I hadn’t realised I could have sexual health tests at my practice, but the doctor raised this when I went to talk about contraception.
Joseph, 48
It was my new girlfriend who suggested I had a test. She knew I was a bit worried, and she told me about her friend who is getting treatment and doing really well. So I talked to my doctor about it, and went ahead with the test. In a way, finding out I have HIV has been helpful for me. Instead of worrying and wondering, I am now getting treatment and feel more in control. And my girlfriend is still around!

Patient request tests - resources for your practice

Quizzes & games

Feel free to ask!’ - a game for all members of your team

Changing practice:
the challenges

Patients may not request HIV tests for a number of reasons. 

Click on any of the challenges below to find out more.

MIght any of these be especially relevant to your own patient population?

You will find other challenges, and ideas for overcoming them, throughout the HIV TIPS website. Or see Overcoming the challenges.

I am not at risk of HIV

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Patients who conclude they are not at risk of HIV might be right. And they might be wrong. The more the GPs and practice nurses in a team discuss sexual health and assess risk with them, the more informed individual patients will be as to how STIs, including HIV, are transmitted. 

See Opportunistic testing for HIV.

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I am not sure the service is confidential

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Does your practice have a confidentiality policy? Are all staff trained to protect confidentiality and aware of the policy? Does the induction of new staff include this?

Finally, are your patients made aware that your practice values confidentiality, and do you make them aware of the existence of your policy?

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I don't think I can get an HIV test at the practice

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You can make it clear to patients that HIV tests are available at the practice through your practice leaflet and website. You can also make this clear through posters or display screens in the waiting area.

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I don't want them to know I am gay

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A patient with this concern may be reassured if they feel your practice offers a confidential and non-judgmental service.

See also I am not sure the service is confidential

Many practices display relevant information or statements in their leaflets or other patient information resources such as waiting room displays.

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I think it affects your insurance if have had an HIV test

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Negative HIV test results should not be included by GPs in insurance reports. If a patient has tested positive for HIV, as with all other important conditions, they will need to inform the insurance company (but, in general, they will still be able to obtain insurance cover).

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That receptionist is from my community and she would be shocked if I had HIV

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Might a patient in your practice be right to have this concern? Involving your team in the ‘Feel free to ask’ exercise may help. Does your practice make clear it is open to discussing HIV, and take a de-stigmatising approach? If there is clear information in the waiting area on HIV this might help reassure this patient. Having an explicit approach to confidentiality may also help.

See also I am not sure the service is confidential.

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