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Blood borne virus (BBV) tests: what to expect

Blood borne viruses (BBVs) are infections that spread through blood. The blood borne viruses we test for are:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

If you attend one of our drug or alcohol services, you will be offered a BBV test. You can also ask for a test when you register with a service.

Why you might need a BBV test

It’s always a good idea to have a BBV test if you’re offered one.

BBVs don’t always have obvious symptoms. There’s no way of knowing whether you have a BBV unless you get tested - even if you don’t think you’ve been at risk lately.

Things that can put you at risk of BBVs include:

  • having sex without a condom
  • current drug use or a history of drug use
  • being aged over 50, because hepatitis C was only identified in the early 1990s and you may have been infected earlier
  • having received a blood transfusion or blood products before 1991
  • having tattoos or medical procedures in unhygienic circumstances

What the test involves

We test for BBVs using a process called dried blood spot testing. This is a really simple process that doesn’t involve drawing a syringe of blood or any other kind of medical procedure.

The person giving you the test will gently prick your finger, then collect a small drop of blood on a piece of card.

They will then clean your finger and give you a plaster.

The card with your dried blood spot will be sent away for testing, and you’ll usually get your results within 10 days.

What happens next

If you test positive for hepatitis C

If you test positive for hepatitis C, we’ll let you know. With your consent, we will refer you to a local clinic for treatment.

To treat hepatitis C, you’ll be given tablets called direct acting antivirals that directly attack the hepatitis C virus. Most people find this treatment easy to take. It’s available to everyone, even if you’re still using alcohol or drugs.

The tablets will be prescribed through a local clinic. They will arrange for your medicine to be delivered to you.

You’ll need to take the tablets for about eight to twelve weeks. Then you’ll need to wait another 12 weeks before having another test to see if the treatment has worked.

In more than 95% of cases, you will be cured of hepatitis C. If the treatment hasn’t worked, it may be repeated or extended. You could also be given a different kind of treatment. The clinic will discuss this with you.

Find out more about hepatitis C on the NHS website.

If you test positive for hepatitis B

If you test positive for hepatitis B, the treatment process depends on how long you have been infected for.

Short-term (acute) hepatitis B does not usually need specific treatment, but may need treatment to relieve the symptoms.

Long-term (chronic) hepatitis B is often treated with medication to keep the virus under control.

Find out more about hepatitis B on the NHS website.

If you test positive for HIV

If you test positive for HIV, we’ll let you know. With your consent, we’ll also refer you to a local clinic for treatment.

There’s currently no cure for HIV, but there are very effective treatments that can control the virus.

With treatment, most people with HIV can live a long and healthy life.

Find out more about HIV on the NHS website.