About HIV self testing
Why has the law changed? In the UK one in five people who have HIV don’t know they have it. In 2012 almost half of those diagnosed were diagnosed late, meaning they have been living with the virus for at least four years. Late diagnosis can result in worse health outcomes, a decreased life expectancy and a greater chance of passing the virus on. People diagnosed late also have a ten-fold increased risk of death within one year of HIV diagnosis compared to those diagnosed promptly. Everyone agrees that increasing testing options will help reduce the number of people with undiagnosed HIV and the numbers diagnosed late.
What’s the difference between ‘self-sampling’ and ‘self-testing’ for HIV? Home HIV self-sampling kits are a postal service where you use the kit to take your own sample of saliva or blood and then post it off to a laboratory for analysis. The results will then come to you separately days later via either phone or text (depending on your result). HIV Self Testing kits require a much smaller blood sample and give you your result while you wait, without anyone else being involved.
How do I know if my HIV Self Test is reliable? All HIV self testing kits are strictly regulated and are highly scrutinised to make sure they meet stringent standards. They have to be registered with the Medicines and Healthcare Agency (MHRA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Your test must have the CE mark specifically for HIV Self Testing and not for Professional Use Only for it to have been approved.
Why should I test for HIV? If you may have been at risk of exposure to HIV then it is always better to know and find out your HIV status. If you have HIV then the earlier you are diagnosed the better. Treatments are so effective now that someone living with HIV can expect to live a normal, healthy life and have a normal life expectancy, as long as they are diagnosed.
Is an HIV Self Test the right choice for me? HIV self-testing is not suitable for everyone. You may want to talk to someone before performing your HIV test and also consider what you are going to do when you get your result - whether positive or negative.
How accurate is my BioSURE HIV Self Test? Your test is extremely accurate, but will not always be 100% correct. Occasionally there can be a positive result which is negative when tested again. This is known as a false positive test result. On average, 997 in every 1000 positive test results is correct, which means that 3 in every 1000 positive tests results will be incorrect. This is why it is so important you get your positive result confirmed by a healthcare professional who will retest you using a different type of test. On average 999 in every 1000 negative results will be correct which means 1 in every 1000 negative test results will be incorrect. If you have any doubts about when your potential exposure may have happened or are still worried you should visit a healthcare professional.
What does HIV stand for? HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a virus that attacks the immune system, making it weaker. Eventually the immune system can become not strong enough to fight infections and diseases.
Are HIV and AIDS the same thing? No. If someone has HIV, this means they have the HIV virus in their body. When their immune system becomes so weak it can’t fight off a range of things, they are then considered to have developed AIDS. People who are HIV positive do not automatically go on to develop AIDS, in fact it is very unlikely to develop if treatment is started in the early stages of HIV infection. Because the way we think about HIV is changing, the term late-stage HIV is increasingly being used instead of AIDS.
How do you get HIV? The most common way of getting HIV in the UK is by having anal or vaginal sex without a condom. The Health Protection Agency report that 95% of those diagnosed with HIV in the UK acquired HIV as a result of sexual contact.
HIV is found in the body fluids of an infected person, which include:
- Vaginal and anal fluids
- Breast milk
HIV cannot be transmitted through saliva, tears, sweat or urine.
Other ways of getting HIV include:
- Using a contaminated needle, syringe or other injecting equipment.
- Transmission 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).
Is there a cure for HIV? HIV is a manageable disease, although there is not a cure. Advances in treatments mean that the majority of those living with the virus remain fit and well and carry on living full and healthy lives on treatment. The earlier diagnosis is made and treatment started, the better the outcome. Late diagnosis is the most important factor with HIV life expectancy and how effective treatments are.
How can I protect myself from HIV?
Why should I test for HIV? If you know you have put yourself at potential risk of exposure to HIV, it’s really important you know your HIV status. The majority of onwards transmission of HIV in the UK is from people who are unaware that they are infected. By knowing your status you can protect yourself and avoid passing the virus on to someone else. You can only be certain if you have HIV if you have an HIV test. The earlier HIV is diagnosed, the earlier you can start treatment and avoid becoming ill. Late diagnosis means the virus will have longer to cause damage to your immune system and your health and can greatly impact your life expectancy.
Why should I self test for HIV? Self testing offers you a greater level of convenience and anonymity than other methods of testing. The problem with current HIV testing options available is, for you to know your status, someone else has to know your status. Your BioSURE HIV Self test will provide you with an accurate result while you wait. Home sampling kits, which are available from several providers, require a much larger blood sample and need to be sent away to a laboratory, so it can take up to 2 weeks for you to receive your results via either text or phone.
Why shouldn’t I self test for HIV? It is your choice where you will be most comfortable having the test. You may feel anxious about taking the test and it is your choice if you would like to speak with a friend or professional before doing it, or have somebody with you while you perform the test. HIV testing is available in a range of professional healthcare settings, including free in NHS Sexual Health (GUM) Clinics where counselling is available.
What are the advantages of using a blood test? Blood contains 300 times more antibodies than oral fluid. That is why an HIV test that uses blood is so accurate. The blood sample size is really small, far less than a drop of blood and the lancet only makes a very small cut in your finger.
What should I do if my test result is positive? Firstly don’t panic. As mentioned above, the most important thing is knowing your HIV status so you can make appropriate decisions. Your BioSURE HIV Self Test is extremely accurate but you need to go and see a healthcare professional and have another test to confirm your test result. It is really important that you do this and upon confirmation you will immediately be linked into appropriate HIV treatment and care. Remember HIV is just 3 letters, it’s not a sentence.
What should I do if my test result is negative? You have a taken a very conscious step to find out your HIV status and now you can use this opportunity to Stay Negative. You can reduce your risk of exposure to HIV by not having unprotected sex with someone who is unsure of their HIV status. Condoms are proven to prevent HIV transmission. Be confident in your choices and relationships, have a look at the Stay Negative tab.
How often should I test for HIV? This really depends on the lifestyle choices you make. If you know you make choices that put you at risk, including having unprotected sex with a person or people who do not know their HIV status, it is recommended that you test regularly. National guidelines recommend repeat testing every 3 months.