You can now test yourself for HIV at home and get an answer in 15 minutes
No more awkward conversations with the sexual health nurse
Almost 30 years after HIV/AIDS was discovered, over 100,000 people in the UK currently have it. Of that number, 24 per cent are unaware they have the virus.
Now, for the first time, HIV can be tested legally and safely at home – with a result in just 15 minutes.
The product, made by BioSure, is available online at an eye-watering £29.95. But that cost provides discrete home delivery, and a product that calmly, to the point of being patronising, gives users a quick result.
While an STD clinic can take up to 14 days, the home-testing kit takes just 15 minutes. The awkwardness of having to sheepishly hand over information about every sexual encounter to a judgemental straight nurse is over. No longer will they ask you “and was there money involved in this sexual encounter?”
With the BioSure testing kit, you receive an oddly efficient neon pink pin-prick device. Don’t be an idiot like me and prick it on your index finger because it kills and they even advise you not to.
Then, with the blood starting to flow (I think I either have super responsive blood or I scratched horizontally as I pricked vertically) the device takes exactly the required amount of blood.
The ease and speed of the device rivals desperate student union attempts to make you pee in a pot. So why aren’t they doing it? Last year the National Union of Students said:
“Our current work on sexual health focuses on access and education. NUS supports students’ unions to campaign on access to sexual health services and testing in local areas, especially as health services cuts might mean reducing outreach for young people and students.
“We also campaign, along with the charity Brook, to extend and improve sex and relationship education particularly, though not exclusively, in further education.
“This covers more than just HIV but it is a critical element.”
In recent years testing for HIV has risen, but men who have sex with men are still more likely to contract the virus – and that figure is rising.
Northumbria student Shaun Breen got HIV from his boyfriend three years ago. He told The Tab: “Having general access to home testing kits for HIV is going to greatly help students.
“The availability of home testing can help testing become socially acceptable. I know so many people that dislike getting tested, so to provide the chance to self-diagnose breaks the barrier of awkwardness.
“Now waiting an hour in an awkward waiting room with strangers has turned into a quick and simple self-test. Especially with most students finding it difficult to designate the time to get tested.
“This gives the chance for both students and the general public to take control of their own health, which is extremely important for the diagnosis of HIV.”
The fight against HIV has been a long one. But, for now, while there is no cure, relatively recent developments in medicine have meant HIV+ people can live a normal life.
Shaun has an undetectable viral load – meaning the level of HIV in his blood is undetectable and can’t be transmitted.
Getting tested early, and beginning a course of treatment, is therefore beneficial for both yourself and sexual partners.
Today, even hook-up sites like Hornet have their own initiative for people to Know Your Status. On their app they write: “Early detection can make a difference in your treatment, the sooner you’re tested the better off you are and can make informed choices, for yourself and your partners.
“While there is no cure for HIV, getting tested often can help you stay healthy by getting the right treatment early. That treatment prolongs the lives of many people infected with HIV and lowers their chance of transmitting the virus.”
The BioSure product works by detecting not HIV directly, but rather the antibodies specific to HIV and is 99.7 per cent accurate. The booklet provided as part of the pack states:
“When the test is completed, two lines can appear on the paper strip. The upper line (the Control Line) will only become visible if you have performed the test correctly. The low line (the Test Line) will only become visible if you have antibodies to HIV in your blood.”
The product was only recently legalised, but is part of a fight against late diagnoses of the disease. The National AIDS Trust said: “We currently have a long way to go when it comes to diagnosing people with HIV on time.
“Over 40 per cent of people living with HIV are diagnosed late, meaning they have been living with HIV for at least four years. People diagnosed late are 11 times more likely to die in the first year after diagnosis.
“To address this public health challenge we need to look at new ways for people to test and self-testing is an important and welcome additional option.”
While one in eight London gay men are HIV+, the campaign “It Starts With Me” points out that eight out of 10 men who are infected with HIV catch it from someone unaware of their status.
“Around 8,000 gay men in Britain have HIV but don’t know it. Many have picked up HIV recently and are very infectious (you’re at your most infectious in the weeks and months after getting HIV).”
It’s not the 1980s anymore, and while many HIV+ individuals do battle stigma, it’s no longer necessarily a death sentence. Getting tested is the first step in receiving the correct treatment, and can now be done without the schlep to an awkward STD clinic.