What is the difference between self-testing and self-sampling?

‘What is the difference between HIV self-testing and HIV self-sampling?’ This is a question we get asked a lot, along with ‘which is the better test?’ There are many similarities and differences between both tests and none are better than the other, you must choose the test that is best for you. So…

Along with the traditional HIV testing method (going to a clinic where a medical professional tests you) there are now other options available that enable you to know your status. With these two options there is no need to see a professional and you can carry out the test at a time and place convenient to you.

  • Self-testing
  • Self-sampling

HIV self-testing

  • It’s like a pregnancy test, but different
  • HIV self-testing used to be illegal, however, in the UK in 2014 this restriction was lifted. Tests that could prove they met the European requirements could be sold and BioSure could legally sell their test
  • You can buy BioSURE HIV Self Tests directly from BioSure, on Amazon and in selected Boots and Superdrug stores, as well as other independent pharmacies.
  • Your test is delivered to your chosen address in discrete opaque packaging containing everything you need; your test (which looks like a small plastic biro barrel), a paediatric lancet, a plaster and a disposal bag, along with instructions and support about what to do next.
  • The BioSURE HIV Self Test requires a minuscule amount of blood, just 2.5µL (less than a drop and 240th of the sample size required for self-sampling) which your test picks up automatically, so you don’t have to measure anything) 
  • After carrying out 3 simple steps; (we say just prick, suck and poke ☺️) , you have a short 15 minute wait until you know your own status, there and then. You are the first person to know your status.

HIV self-sampling

  • HIV self-sampling has always been legal in the UK.
  • A number of sexual health clinics and charities offer this as a free service depending on geographical location, to targeted groups of people, however, they are also available to purchase for around £40.
  • Just like a self-test, your test is sent to your chosen location with a few safety lancets, a collection tube similar to when you have a blood test in a hospital and an envelope to return everything.
  • You are required to produce enough blood to fill the collection tube which is approximately 600ul.
  • You then shake the collection tube to mix everything and post your sample back to a laboratory where the test is performed.
  • Someone then contacts you with your test results. If the test is negative, you generally receive a text. If your result is positive, then you usually get a phone call and you will be advised what to do next and where to seek support.

Both tests require a confirmatory test in a clinic if your result is positive. 

In a recent study, funded by Gilead and managed by SH:24, results showed that two thirds of individuals would prefer a BioSURE HIV Self Test as opposed to self-sampling because of factors including immediate results, privacy and the very small blood sample size.

Please note: Unfortunately, there are still many unregulated self-testing kits being sold illegally online. The BioSURE HIV Self Test has gone through and passed rigorous testing and continues to meet European guidelines.