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 a web tool known as BerDa. On the basis of a self-administered questionnaire, BerDa automatically creates a risk profile for the person requesting the test. It offers a structure for the consultation, together with a series of targeted recommendations that are relevant to the answers given and to the client's sexual behaviour.

BerDa also collects information supplied by VCT centre clients in the form of anonymous statistical data which helps identify various trends in Switzerland.

VCT centres wishing to acquire BerDa can contact the Prevention and Promotion unit of the FOHP's Communicable Diseases division.

LOVE LIFE and testing and counselling services in Switzerland

The website of the national LOVE LIFE campaign features a "risk test" tool that tells people when and where they can take an HIV/STI test.  

Further information

Counselling and testing centres for HIV and other STI's

Do the risk assessment and 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 new Federal Act of 3.12.2010 on the control of communicable human diseases (Epidemics Act; EpidA) has been in force since 1.1.2016, and enables a timely detection, monitoring, prevention and control.

Last modification 09.07.2019

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Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
Division of Communicable Diseases
Prevention and Promotion Section
Schwarzenburgstrasse 157
3003 Berne
Tel. +41 58 463 87 06

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