HIV testing: Free DIY home kit offered in England

Free HIV tests that can be done at home are being offered this week to people in England.

It is part of a government drive to improve diagnosis, which dropped off during the Covid pandemic.

The kit is small enough to fit through the letterbox and arrives in plain packaging through the post.

It gives a result within 15 minutes by testing a drop of blood from a finger prick. A “reactive” result means HIV is possible and a clinic check is needed.

Support and help is available to arrange this.

If the result is negative it means the test did not detect HIV. If you think you are at risk of HIV, however, you should test every three months because it can take a while for the virus to show in the blood.

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About 4,400 people in England are living with undiagnosed HIV, which comes with serious health risks.

HIV medication can keep the virus at undetectable levels, meaning you cannot pass HIV on and your health is protected.

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Most people get the virus from someone who is unaware they have it, according to the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) charity which campaigns about and provides services relating to HIV and sexual health.

HIV testing rates remain a fifth lower than before the Covid-19 pandemic – with heterosexual men in particular now testing far less than in 2019.

Testing among gay and bisexual men has increased but rates of testing among women have fallen by 22% compared to 2019, while there has been a 41% drop for heterosexual men.

Straight men and women are also far more likely to be diagnosed at a late stage.

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