10 questions about HIV home testing you were afraid to ask

Even in these supposedly enlightened modern times, there is still a certain stigma attached to HIV that simply does not exist for other illnesses. This can have serious consequences for sufferers. Research in the USA shows that more than 30 percent are diagnosed too late to take full advantage of the treatment that is now available.

The ability to self-test is therefore hugely important, but is a topic about which there is plenty of mystery and uncertainty. Here, we take a look at ten of the most commonly asked questions people ask about the HIV home test. Take a look now, and remember, if in doubt, don’t delay.

1) What types of HIV home test are there?

There are two sorts you can do – the first is a kit where you send the sample off to a lab and get a result. The second is where you actually read the result yourself from a testing kit.

2) What do you have to do?

Both sorts involve pricking a finger to collect a sample of blood and then either posting it off in a tube or pulling it on a testing strip.

3) Is HIV home testing reliable?

Provided you are using a licensed home HIV test, it will give very reliable results. Of course, every test has a certain potential for inaccuracy, but provided you follow the instructions correctly, the likelihood of a false result is very low.

4) Does it hurt?

The kit will provide a lancet with which to prick your finger. This is something we have all done from time to time, and there are some clever tips to make sure it’s as painless as possible.

5) Does it matter which finger?

It doesn’t matter at all. The middle finger is usually the best one to get a reasonable sample from, though.

6) How do you get the sample?

Once you’ve pricked the finger, just massage the sides of it to form a drop of blood, which you can collect in the tube or on the testing strip. Keep the finger dry, and remember to massage – don’t be tempted to squeeze, that won’t work.

7) How much blood is needed?

This varies between one test and another, but it’s typically about eight drops. That might sound a lot, but once you get the hang of it, it’s neither difficult nor painful to get the required sample.

8) How long does it take?

The entire process usually takes around 15 minutes to complete. Obviously, if you are doing a postal test, you should send the sample off without delay.

9) Do home tests give an immediate result?

The home “strip test” takes about 15 minutes to provide a result.

10) What if it is positive?

If you get a positive result, it is great to know quickly, that way positive and effective treatment can be provided. Speak to your GP or local HIV clinic as soon as you can to get help and advice on the next steps.

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