Differences between Home Sampling and HIV Testing

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2 Jun 2016

Differences between Home Sampling and HIV Testing

Here at the Freedoms Shop we are often asked what the difference is between our HIV Home Sampling Kit and our HIV Self-Testing Kit.

Before home kits were offered for sale, the way to get tested for HIV was to go along to a clinic and have a medical practitioner take a blood sample. Now we offer two types of kit that allow you to perform a HIV test yourself.


HIV Home Sampling

When you order a HIV Home Sampling Kit, you receive a discreet package through the post which allows you to collect the required blood sample yourself in your home. The kit will typically contain instructions, a lancet, a collection tube and an envelope for posting your sample back.

To use this type of kit, you first follow the instructions to take your sample, which includes carefully washing and soaking your hands to increase your blood flow. You then use a safety lancet that allows you to make a small cut in your finger, giving you enough blood to fill the collection tube. The tube requires 2.5ml of blood which is the equivalent to half a teaspoon.

It is advisable to draw blood from the little finger as it traditionally bleeds more, and hurts less.

Once you’ve taken your sample, you post it to the lab to be tested and then wait for your result.  The test should be effective at detecting HIV from around 28 days after you were exposed.

If the lab determines that your result is negative, you’ll usually get a text or email. If the lab finds the result is positive, you’ll get a phone call from an advisor. They will tell you how to get a further test performed to confirm your result and where you can go to receive further support, advice and treatment for your condition.

HIV Self-Testing

Freedoms Shop sells the BioSURE HIV Self Testing Kit which is sent to you in the same sort of discrete package as the HIV Home Sampling Kit. For this type of kit you’ll also need to take a blood sample, but the amount you need to produce is a small drop - 1000thof the size needed for the Home Sampling Kit, making it much easier to carry out.

Once you have your drop of blood, you place the tip of the self-testing device into the drop and the correct amount will be drawn up automatically. You then need to wait for 15 minutes for the test to work.

If your test proves to be negative, you’ll have the reassurance of this result just a few minutes after taking your sample – a definite advantage over waiting days for the lab to contact you. If the result is positive, you’ll need to contact a clinic and arrange a further test to confirm the accuracy.

It is at this point where the disadvantages of a self-testing kit become apparent. Most people will conduct the test in their own home, without anyone to support them – and should you get a positive result, this can feel overwhelming. It is perhaps for this reason that HIV Self Testing kits were illegal in the UK up until April 2014. After this date, tests that meet EU standards for safety and performance could be approved. The BioSURE HIV Self Testing Kit is the only kit that is CE marked and approved in the UK.

HIV test

Self-Testing Kit Reviews

We have compiled a few reviews of the self-testing kit to reassure you of the reliability and usability of the product. These are all real reviews from Pebl Feedback.

Gay man using HIV Self-Test for the first time -

"The self-test is ridiculously easy to use and offers discreet and reassuring results very quickly. It was delivered quickly and discreetly and is also easy to dispose of. If you are at all worried and have concerns always go to a GUM clinic as they are very supportive there but it is reassuring you can test at home if you cannot easily get to a clinic regularly.”

Finally got tested –

"I have been putting this off for years because I haven’t been very sexually active and the few times I had anal sex have always been with condoms. However, since there is still a slim chance of getting HIV during oral sex I recently became worried as I had been struggling to get rid of a cold for the past few weeks. The test came out negative. I’m glad this kit exists as it relieved me from broaching the subject with my GP.

"Given the high infection rate among gay men in the UK (for London it’s 1 out of 8 sexually active gay men) the awareness of this kit needs to be raised.”

Girlfriend asked me to take the test –

"Even if you think you aren’t at risk, it’s nice to know for sure. If you are anxious about your past sexual experiences, this is a good way of putting an end to that and moving on with your life. If you are nervous, maybe you could take the test at home with a close friend for company, or a trusted member of your family. I chose to do it on my own, but that’s just me.


"It’s a good product, in my opinion.”

Choosing the right kit

The advantage of using a HIV Home Sampling Kit is that should you have a positive result, you’ll have someone to talk to straight away who understands what you are facing. You’ll also be immediately signposted to the correct service for a second test and further support. The downside of this type of kit is that you’ll have to wait for the results and may find yourself worrying about the possible outcomes while you wait.

The advantage of a HIV Self-Testing kit is that the results are instant – but the disadvantage is that you won’t have a trained professional on the end of the phone to discuss the result and support you if the results are positive. If you decide to use a Self-Testing kit, you may wish to consider confiding in a close friend or family member and having them with you while you complete the test.

Avoiding unsafe kits

Some HIV self-testing kits do not bear the CE mark and are supplied illegally on the Internet by unregulated sellers. We cannot recommend enough that you avoid these tests – most are designed for medical professionals to use, and they may therefore give an incorrect result.

Take a look at our range of testing kits here.


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