HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust and the Health Protection Agency are co-launching a pilot project that will allow gay and bisexual men to access HIV home sampling kits by post.

Men in the UK will be able to visit Terrence Higgins Trust’s website and request delivery of an HIV home sampling kit. The service is free and confidential. The user is asked to provide a finger-prick of blood, which they then send to the lab for testing.

Users should receive their result within a week of them returning the sample, either by text message (if the result is negative) or with a telephone call to provide support and refer them to specialist HIV services (if the result is reactive).

The pilot has been set up to provide an alternative method of testing for men who are unable to access their local sexual health clinic or who want a more private way to test.

Gay and bisexual men remain one of the groups most at risk of HIV infection in the UK. However, one in four gay and bisexual men with HIV is unaware that they have it. This has been identified as a key factor driving the epidemic among this group.

Jason Warriner, clinical director at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Currently, we have a big focus on driving down undiagnosed HIV within the gay community. We need to explore every possible avenue to get more men testing more often. Starting to introduce home sampling programmes removes another obstacle to the kind of community-wide focus on testing we need in order to halt the spread of HIV on the gay scene.”

Dr Anthony Nardone, head of sexual health promotion at the Health Protection Agency, added: “The Health Protection Agency is supporting this project because, with an estimated one in four HIV positive gay men unaware of their infection, we must encourage more to test at least annually and more often if they have had unprotected sex with a new or casual partner. Ordering a HIV home sampling kit by post makes following this advice even easier. An early HIV diagnosis means timely treatment and a much improved prognosis.”