The latest UK national human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing guidelines, released in September 2008, state that HIV testing should be offered to all patients with indicator conditions and considered in all general medical admissions in high-prevalence areas. We audited testing rates at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, a high-prevalence area, one year before and one year after the publication of the new guidelines. In the year after publication the rate of HIV testing in patients with indicator diseases was as follows: hepatitis B 6%, hepatitis C 28%, tuberculosis 9% and lymphoma 14%. The overall rate of HIV testing in acute medical admissions was 0.5%. Our results demonstrate that traditional methods of guideline dissemination did not lead to implementation. We are now assessing alternative methods such as marking all positive laboratory results for indicator diseases with the phrase ‘HIV testing should be considered’ and implementing universal opt-out screening in our Clinical Decisions Unit.