Abstract Although initiatives are under way in the UK to diagnose HIV infection early, late presentation is still a major issue and often results in serious health complications for the individual and has implications for society, including high costs and increased rates of transmission. Intervention strategies in the UK have aimed at increasing testing opportunities but still a significant proportion of those with HIV infection either decline testing or continue to test late. The main objective of this study is to identify ideas and themes as to why testing was not carried out earlier in men who have sex with men (MSM) who presented with late HIV infection. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with MSM presenting late with a CD4 cell count of <200. A structured framework approach was used to analyse the data collected and generate ideas as to why they did not seek testing earlier. Seventeen MSM were interviewed and four main themes were identified: psychological barriers, including fear of illness and dying, stigma surrounding testing for HIV and in living with a positive diagnosis, perceived low risk for contracting HIV despite participants reporting having a good understanding of HIV and its transmission and strong views that a more active approach by healthcare services, including general practice, is necessary if the uptake of HIV testing is to increase. Late presentation with HIV infection continues to be a problem in the UK despite government initiatives to expand opportunities for testing. Recurring themes for late testing were a low perceived risk for HIV infection and a fear of HIV and a positive diagnosis. Population-targeted health promotion alongside a more proactive approach by healthcare professionals and making HIV testing more convenient and accessible may result in earlier testing.
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