Government launches free HIV home-testing kits nationally
Public Health England is rolling out a national scheme allowing people to test for HIV in their own homes for free.
The announcement was made today ahead of HIV Testing Week, which begins on Saturday – and is aimed at tackling the number of people who are unaware they are living with HIV. The tests are available for at-risk groups including men who have sex with men.
The postal self-sampling kits contain safety lancets to collect a blood sample via a finger prick, as well as everything you need to send off your sample to be tested – from the comfort of your own home .
Similar kits have previously been available regionally and through HIV charities – and are aimed at people who may be unwilling to visit a clinic.
However, the new scheme is the first time they have been available nationally in England. You can order a test at test.hiv
It comes as the number of people living with HIV in the UK passed 100,000, with PHE confirming that 103,700 people are now living with HIV. Roughly half of HIV diagnoses are among men who have sex with men, and MSM continue to see an increase in HIV diagnoses despite steady numbers in other groups.
Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said: “We have made great strides in HIV treatment, and those people speaking out about their condition are helping reduce the stigma around it. But until HIV is a thing of the past, there is more to do and we need to be bold.
“I want today’s launch of the first National HIV Home Sampling service to encourage people at risk to find out their HIV status, using our free kits, so they can get the best care for themselves and partners.
“Our Innovation Fund is also identifying new ideas to tackle the problem. I hope that all those at risk will take the opportunity to get tested and help us halve new HIV infections by 2020.”
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Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England said: “Despite national rates of HIV declining, it is still a growing problem within certain communities and levels of HIV testing among high risk people remain too low.
“The HIV home-sampling service and the HIV Innovation Fund help boost the ongoing efforts to reduce HIV infection in England.
“With National HIV Testing Week approaching, I would encourage all those at higher-risk of HIV, such as men who have sex with men or people from black African communities, to seriously consider testing, especially as they are now able to order a home-sampling kit free online.”
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing spokesperson, said: “HIV testing is key to prevention.
“Evidence shows that earlier diagnosis can not only benefit personal health, but has massive public health benefits too, while saving significant sums of money for the NHS and local services.
“Councils now have responsibility for public health and commissioning sexual health services. HIV testing and outreach services are a part of this, whether in GP practices, sexual health clinics or in community settings.”