Cuts to sexual health services over the last few years have made it more difficult for people to get seen in a clinic for a check-up, but for many of us, regular testing is now a lot easier with free at home sample kits.

It gives you peace of mind, quicker treatment if you need it, and helps to stop passing on any infections. Across London there is now a free at home service and many other areas have one too, so look online to see what services are available.

When you register online, they ask a few questions about the type of sex you have (so they know which kit to send you) and you can choose to have it sent to a specific address or go in and collect it from a clinic yourself. The postal kit comes in completely plain packaging so nobody will know what is inside. Once you have taken your samples, you post them in the free return pack, and you will get your results back in a few days via text or online. If you do need treatment, your local clinic will contact you and get you an appointment as soon as possible.

Some people are scared of doing the samples themselves or getting it wrong, especially the blood sample, so it is worth taking your time at first. Here’s our guide to taking your samples at home:

URINE SAMPLE

You need to collect the first part of your urine and have not been to the toilet for at least two hours before. First thing in the morning is a good idea. The sample tube is small, so unless you have a good aim, using the collection pouch is advisable and helps avoid spilling any. Make sure you fill the tube up to the marked line so there is enough to test.

THROAT SWAB

Check you have the right swab, usually labelled throat or oral. Swab the back of your throat including your tonsils and uvula (the little dangly bit in the back of your throat). This might make you gag a little. Put it back in the tube and make sure the lid is tight.

RECTAL SWAB

Check you have the right labelled swab. The usual advice here is to get into a comfortable position, but considering we’re probably all doing this in the bathroom, the tiled floor isn’t looking too cozy.

Squatting down brings your knees to your chest and helps line everything up. Take your time to get the angle right and avoid just shoving it in as that’s going to be uncomfortable. If you hold on to the swab a few centimetres down you’ll know how far you need to insert it, then gently rotate it 5-10 times in a circular motion before pulling it out. Put it back in the tube and make sure the lid is tight.

BLOOD SAMPLE

This can seem like the most difficult thing and many people are scared of needles or the sight of blood. It is a good idea to have some tissue and extra plasters just in case, usually you’ll only get one plaster in the kit. Wash your hands under hot water, which will also make the blood flow easier. Open and set up the blood tube on a flat surface. The return pouch for the blood tube can double as a stand. Somewhere near the sink is good idea and easy to clean if you do spill any drops of blood. Twist the cover off the lancet and push it into the end of your middle or third finger (picking the opposite hand to the one you write with is a good idea). The needle then retracts back and can’t be used again. There are spares in the kit if you need to prick another finger. Don’t go too close to the edge of your finger as drops of blood can run under your nail. Keep your hand below your waist and massage your finger with your other hand to encourage it to bleed. Drops can stick to the edge of the bottle, but don’t worry, it will level out as you fill it. You need to fill the tube to make sure there is enough blood to test, usually to the 600 line.  


To order a HIV and STI testing kit online in London, visit www.shl.uk.

The following boroughs have chosen NOT to participate in SHL: Hillingdon, Hounslow, Sutton, Croydon, Greenwich, and Barking and Dagenham.

To order a HIV testing kit online, you can also visit www.test.hiv. Enter your age and postcode to see if you are eligible.

Terrence Higgins Trust also offer free HIV postal tests in some areas of the UK. To find out more visit www.tht.org.uk/our-services/phone-and-post/free-hiv-postal-tests.


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