Testing and counselling

The FOPH encourages counselling and testing (voluntary or doctor-initiated) for HIV and other STIs. The FOPH has published its recommendations on HIV for voluntary counselling and testing centres and for doctors. 

HIV-tests for self-administration ("HIV self-tests")

For information on HIV-tests for self-administration ("HIV self-tests") click here.

Voluntary counselling and testing (VCT)

Promotion of voluntary screening for STIs (including HIV) has seen continual growth in hospitals and sexual counselling centres since the publication of the national programme for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

The FOPH recommends that HIV/STI testing is always accompanied by the documentation of sexual behaviour history and counselling prior to and following the test.

The fourth-generation rapid HIV test can detect HIV infection two weeks after the risk-taking behaviour, and confirms the absence of HIV infection six weeks after the risk has been taken. If primary HIV infection is suspected (flu-like symptoms), HIV/STI testing centres ensure that more sensitive screening in the form of laboratory analysis is undertaken. Rapid tests also exists for syphilis and hepatitis B and C.

The FOPH promotes voluntary HIV/STI counselling and testing and publishes targeted recommendations regarding HIV on its website for the benefit of screening centres offering VCT.

Provider-initiated counselling and testing (PICT)

The VCT approach is complemented by "provider-initiated counselling and testing" (PICT). According to VCT rules, HIV testing should not be carried out only at the request of the patient. For example, doctors always recommend that pregnant women are screened for HIV and syphilis. Certain symptoms and clinical situations may be caused by an HIV infection and so lead doctors to suggest an HIV test. Recommendations have been made in cooperation with the FOPH committee of HIV clinical and therapy experts.

The PICT recommendations have three objectives: they must allow the doctor a) not to miss an HIV primary infection, b) to consider the possibility of advanced HIV infection where the symptoms or the clinical situation are not clear, and c) to undertake a prevention-focused interview/counselling session with patients and offer them an HIV test if they are thought to have taken risks.

BerDa (electronic history taking, counselling and reporting tool)

To ensure that Swiss VCT centres provide a high level of counselling quality, the FOPH has developed an electronic tool known as BerDa. BerDa uses a questionnaire completed by the client to prepare their responses for the counsellor. The tool also helps give structure to the consultation by providing a series of generally applicable recommendations for counselling on HIV/STI tests. The data, which are recorded anonymously, are available to VCT centres for quality development purposes, and are used for the observation of various trends in Switzerland.

VCT centres that wish to use BerDa can contact the Prevention and Promotion Section of the FOPH’s Division of Communicable Diseases.

LOVE LIFE and testing and counselling services in Switzerland

Here are the addresses of Switzerland’s counselling and testing centres.

Further information

Counselling and testing centres for HIV and other STI's

Find the right counselling and testing centre for you.

Guidelines and recommendations on sexually transmitted infections

The FOPH draws up guidelines and recommendations for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections along with the Swiss Federal Commission for Sexual Health (FCSH).

Communicable Diseases Legislation – Epidemics Act, (EpidA)

The Epidemics Act aims to ensure that communicable diseases are detected, monitored, prevented and controlled at an early stage and helps to better manage disease outbreaks with a high risk potential.

Last modification 24.04.2024

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Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
Division Communicable diseases
Schwarzenburgstrasse 157
3003 Bern
Tel. +41 58 463 87 06

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