The kits are small and discreet – the box is sent in a white plastic bag with no identifying markings or logos!
Your kit contains all the bits you need to collect your sample and return it to our laboratory for testing.
Unlike some STIs such as Chlamydia (which can be tested from a urine sample), the HIV virus is blood-borne and therefore a small blood sample is the most accurate way to test for the infection.
What is HIV?
HIV is a virus which attacks the immune system, and weakens your ability to fight infections and disease. It’s most commonly caught by having sex without a condom.
It can also be passed on by sharing infected needles and other injecting equipment, and from an HIV-positive mother to her child during pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. The virus attacks the immune system, and weakens your ability to fight infections and disease.
There is no cure for HIV, but there are treatments to enable most people with the virus to live a long and healthy life.
AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection, when your body can no longer fight life-threatening infections. With early diagnosis and effective treatment, most people with HIV will not go on to develop AIDS.
How do you get HIV?
HIV is found in the body fluids of an infected person, which includes semen, vaginal and anal fluids, blood, and breast milk. It is a fragile virus and does not survive outside the body for long.
HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat or urine.
The most common way of getting HIV in the UK is by anal or vaginal sex without a condom. According to statistics from Public Health England, 95% of those diagnosed with HIV in the UK in 2013 acquired HIV as a result of sexual contact.
Other ways of getting HIV include:
- using a contaminated needle, syringe or other injecting equipment
- tranmission from mother to baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding
- through oral sex or sharing sex toys (although the risk is significantly lower than for anal and vaginal sex)
Getting tested for HIV
The only way to find out if you have HIV is to have an HIV test.
If you think you have put yourself at risk of HIV, you should seek medical advice and have a test as soon as recommended. The earlier HIV is diagnosed, the earlier you can start treatment and avoid becoming ill.
Emergency anti-HIV medication called PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) may stop you becoming infected, but treatment must be started within three days of coming into contact with the virus.
There are a number of places you can get an HIV test, including your GP surgery and sexual health clinics and clinics run by charities including the Terrence Higgins Trust.
Most HIV tests in the UK involve taking a small sample of blood and sending this to a laboratory for analysis. These tests can provide a reliable result from four weeks after possible infection and results are usually available within a few days. It is also possible to test using a saliva sample or pin-prick (blood-spot) test, and many sexual health clinics now use these tests routinely as the result is available within a few minutes and do not need to be sent to the lab. However, these tests do not reliably detect HIV if you have been infected within the past few weeks.
You may get the results in hours, days or weeks, depending on the type of test you take.
If your test is positive, you will be referred to a specialist HIV clinic where you’ll have more blood tests to show what effect HIV is having on your immune system and be able to discuss treatment options.