What’s in the kit?

The home test kit enables you to provide a small blood sample, collected from a finger prick.

Some samples will be tested for both HIV and syphilis, and others for HIV only, check the lab card that comes with your kit to see which tests we can run on your sample.

You will not need to write your name on your sample. The kit will arrive pre-labelled with a unique code. This is to ensure your testing experience is as easy and discreet as possible.

  • instruction card
  • sample tube
  • 3 lancets
  • 2 sterile wipes
  • 2 plasters
  • protective case
  • lab card
  • freepost return envelope
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How do I collect my blood sample?

The most accurate way to test for HIV and syphilis is to do a blood test.

Our self-sampling kits enable you to safely take a blood sample at home. You will not get results immediately. You will need to freepost return your sample to our lab for testing.

It is best to do this when you have 5-10 minutes to spare. Being warm and keeping your arm straight will help blood flow to your finger.

Read through all of the steps before you start.

Step 1

You might find it difficult to take a sample if your hands aren’t warm.

Try taking a shower or bath, soaking your hands in warm water, exercising or holding a warm mug.

Step 1

Step 2

Remove the yellow lid from the tube.

Close the protective case and gently push the tube into the corner of the case so that it stands up, as shown.

Step 2

Step 3

Twist and pull the tip off a lancet.

Then use a wipe to sterilise your chosen finger.

Step 3

Step 4

To prick your finger, stand up and lay your hand on a flat surface. Press the lancet firmly into your fingertip, not too close to your fingernail.

If you find the centre of your fingertips are sensitive, try pricking the side of your finger instead.

Step 4

Step 5

Stand up over the tube, keep your arm straight with your hand below your waist. Massage down your finger. Avoid squeezing too hard (if your blood stops flowing, prick another finger).

Fill to the top 600 line, then push the yellow cap down firmly (so it clicks).

Step 5

Step 6

Gently turn the tube upside down 5 times so the blood can make contact with the preservative gel. This stops it from clotting.

Put the tube into the protective case and into the yellow freepost envelope, together with your lab card. Post in any Royal Mail post box.

Step 6

Home-sampling blood test video tutorial

Some people experience difficulty collecting their blood sample. Many people find it easier and quicker to complete the sample after watching this short video.

Results & Further support

We will send you a text when your sample arrives at the lab.

If there is not enough blood or if the sample gets lost or damaged in the post, one of our clinicians can offer you another kit to repeat the test.

The lab will run a test on your sample. This will give a negative or a reactive result. We should be able to give you your results within three working days of it arriving at the lab.

If you have a negative result we will notify you by text. If you are worried about privacy, you may want to amend the notification settings on your phone, so that text messages are not displayed on your home screen when your phone is locked.

No test is 100% accurate but the tests that we use are very sensitive. So if you have a negative result, and you have tested 7 weeks after potential exposure to HIV, and 12 weeks after potential exposure to syphilis, then you can be confident that you don’t have these infections. Find out more about when to test.

If you have a reactive result we will call to offer you support and help you arrange further confirmatory testing at a clinic near you. Some people can be very worried if they receive a reactive result, so we are here to answer any questions and explain what this result means.

What does a reactive HIV result mean?

It is important to know that a reactive HIV home test result is not an HIV diagnosis. It is very different to a ‘positive’ result.

The World Health Organisation guidance on HIV testing says that an HIV diagnosis can only be confirmed after completing three separate tests. Your home test kit sample provides enough blood to do the first of these three tests.

When you attend a clinic for confirmatory testing, they will take a larger sample of blood in order to run the full set of tests. These tests will provide a definitive result: negative or positive for HIV. If further tests show you have a positive HIV result, the clinic will also be able to see what stage of HIV infection you have and refer you immediately to a specialist clinic to discuss treatment options.

Find out more about what a reactive result means and how common they are.

What does a reactive syphilis result mean?

There are two types of syphilis test. The test we run on your blood sample can only be offered to people who have not had treatment for syphilis in the past. If you have received treatment in the past, the TPPA (Treponema pallidum particle agglutination assay) test we do is likely to show a reactive result, as it can detect past infections.

A reactive syphilis result requires confirmatory testing in a sexual health clinic. A second type of test, such as a RPR (rapid plasma reagin) will check whether the antibodies detected are from a new infection or a previous one. If your confirmatory test returns a positive syphilis result, the clinic can also tell you what stage of syphilis you have and refer you immediately to a specialist clinic to discuss treatment options.

Further support

If you have questions or want some further support or advice, reply to one of our text messages. Our clinical team will read and respond to your message.

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Does the kit expire if I don’t use it straight away?

The kit components may expire after 6 months. We ask you to write the date you completed the test kit on your lab card so that we know your sample was taken recently, even if your kit has been ordered some months ago.

We ask that you only order a kit if you plan to use it soon, otherwise you are keeping hold of a kit that someone else could be making use of. Funding for the service is limited, so we want to reduce waste wherever possible.

Does the blood go off if I don’t post it back soon after taking my sample?

Your blood sample will be viable for laboratory testing for up to 7 days, so we advise posting it as soon as you can after taking the test. There is less risk of your blood drying out or clotting if you post it right away.

Tipping your blood sample tube upside down a few times before laying it in its protective packaging will also help prevent blood clotting. The gel at the bottom of the tube is designed to protect your blood sample from haemolysing (breaking down).

When you take your test, please:

  • think about how quickly you will be able to get to your nearest postbox
  • make sure you rotate your sample upside down a few times before returning it

If there is not enough blood or the sample gets lost or damaged in the post, one of our clinicians can offer you another kit to repeat the test.

Will I get my results immediately?

No. This home sampling HIV test kit allows you to take a small sample and return it to our lab for testing. Once the lab has received your sample, you should get your results within three working days, though results often come sooner.

Our test kits are not like some instant self testing HIV tests, where you wait 15 minutes for the testing device to show you a reactive or negative result. Instead, your sample will be tested by our professional laboratory and our clinicians will be there to support you if you have a reactive result.

Will the kit say HIV test on the outer packaging?

No. Your test kit will arrive in a grey envelope with your address label, a franked postage label and a sticker with a barcode that we use to track the dispatch of your kit. There is nothing on the package to suggest it contains a test kit or has anything to do with your health.

Does it hurt?

Some people experience pain or discomfort, whilst many other people don’t. We have heard that people who prick the centre of their finger can find this area more sensitive afterwards, so we recommend using the lancets on the side or outside edge of your finger.

Some people who have a fear or phobia of needles are reassured by knowing the lancet is not a needle but a very small flat blade that makes a small cut. It is enclosed in order to keep it sterile and safe.

What if I can’t get enough blood from my finger?

The best thing you can do is try to get warmed up just before using the lancet to prick your finger. To help your blood flow:

  • do some simple exercises, and move your arms and hands about
  • have a warm bath or shower
  • hold a mug with a hot drink inside.

If you are still struggling, make sure when taking the test you:

  • stand up, keep your arm straight with your hand below your waist
  • push the lancet firmly against your finger. Using one lancet to make the tiny cut deep enough is likely to be less painful than having to use all three
  • when massaging down your finger, don’t squeeze too hard as this can cause your blood to clot, as it would if you were trying to stop a cut from bleeding while holding it high and squeezing. Push firmly but not painfully, as if you were massaging a sore muscle
  • avoid using the lancet too close to your fingernail, as the blood can drop behind the nail and get stuck, this makes it harder to drip your blood into the tube. Some people prefer to prick the outside edge of their finger tip so it is easier to see the drops and aim into the tube.

If you want support or advice from our clinical team, or if you have used all 3 lancets and need more, you can reply to one of our text messages.

Why does the lab card in my kit say it is only testing for HIV and not syphilis?

Your local council will decide whether or not to commission us to offer you HIV or HIV and syphilis testing. In previous years, the National HIV Prevention Programme has not provided syphilis testing. This was a new addition when Freetesting.hiv was launched in October 2019.

We can only offer syphilis testing if you have not received treatment for syphilis in the past. Our test is so sensitive that it could pick up antibodies from previous infections.

During the order process, we will recommend you have a syphilis test at your local sexual health clinic instead.

It is possible to test your blood sample for both HIV and syphilis. You will not have to provide an extra sample to get two results.

If you would like syphilis tests available on Freetesting.hiv in your area, please email to let us know: sh24.info@nhs.net.

Otherwise, check if you are eligible for a full STI home testing kit from SH:24, or find your local clinic.

What tests do you run on my sample?

Our HIV test may use either 4th or 5th Generation Assay. This tests for HIV I and II/p24 antigen.

Our Syphilis test is an ECLIA (ElectroChemiLuminescence ImmunoAssay). This test looks for antibodies known as immunoglobulin IgG and IgM.

Our laboratory screens for both HIV and syphilis using the Roche Cobas E Modular platform or the BioRad Bio-plex system.

Why is it important to regularly test for HIV?

Finding out that you have an HIV infection and starting treatment early means you:

  • can stay healthy, as the virus has had less time to damage your immune system
  • can avoid passing the virus onto other people
  • can discuss which HIV treatment options are best for you
  • can achieve an undetectable viral load sooner
  • can expect to have a normal life expectancy.