If you are concerned about having contracted HIV then use our HIV home test kit to find out without having to see your regular doctor or nurse. The HIV home test kit requires you to take a small blood sample following the instructions an

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What is HIV?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is a viral infection that attacks T cells, a type of white blood cell, reducing the body’s ability to protect itself against infections, diseases and other conditions. 

How do you catch HIV?

HIV is transmitted through certain bodily fluids, including blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids and vaginal fluids. For the virus to be transferred from one person to another, the bodily fluids of the infected person must enter the bloodstream of the other. This can occur through direct injection into the bloodstream, or via contact with a mucus membrane such as the inside of the mouth, vagina or rectum. HIV is most commonly transmitted via sexual intercourse or through the sharing of drug injecting equipment. 

How does this test work?

This test requires you to supply a small blood sample. Make sure to read the instruction carefully and to wash your hands thoroughly before you start. The best finger to collect a blood sample from is the middle finger of the hand you do not use to write with, but bear in mind that you may need to use more than one finger, so you should sanitise you middle and ring finger before starting. Remove the caps of the collection container and the lancet inside the kit, and firmly press the pad of your finger against the lancet it so that it pricks the skin. Wipe away the first drop of blood, and then massage your finger so that more drops appear. Carefully collect about 8 drops of the blood in the container until it is filled to the marked line. You may need to stand up and swing your arm a little to increase blood flow, or use a different finger if necessary. Carefully replace the cap onto the collection container, then wash your finger and cover it with a plaster. Put your sample into the return packaging and make sure it is properly sealed. It should take around 2 weeks for your results to be processed in the lab, and you will receive them via your preferred means of contact.

Who should get tested?

Anyone who is sexually active should be tested for HIV at some point. Some groups of people are more risk of contracting HIV and should get checked regularly, including:

  • Anyone who has had sex with an HIV positive partner
  • Men who have sex with other men
  • Anyone who has sex with more than once partner
  • Anyone who has shared drug injecting equipment since their last negative result
  • Anyone who has exchanged sex for drugs or money
  • Anyone who has been diagnosed with any other sexually transmitted infection
  • Anyone who has been diagnosed with hepatitis or tuberculosis

When is the best time to get tested?

It can take up to 3 months after the time of infection for traces of HIV to show up in a blood test. If you are worried about a specific incident, you may need to wait before taking a test. You may wish to get tested regularly as a precaution, as the virus is more easy to manage if caught early.

How accurate is this test?

Home HIV tests are considered to be very reliable, and use the same testing method as the NHS. If your results come back positive, you will need to go to a HIV or sexual health clinic as soon as possible for a confirmation test.

What should I do if I get a positive test result?

If your results come back positive, you should contact your GP as soon as possible to talk about the next steps, including treatment. You will also need to go to a HIV or sexual health clinic for a confirmation test, as it is possible to receive a false positive in rare cases.

What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It damages your body’s immune system by attacking and destroying T cells, a type of white blood cell which fight infection. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and is the final and most advanced stage of HIV. AIDS is the condition which develops when the immune system has been severely damaged by the HIV virus.

How long does it take for HIV to progress to AIDS?

The time it takes for HIV to progress to AIDs can vary greatly and not everybody with HIV will get AIDS. The progression of the virus depends on the speed of your diagnosis, your treatment, personal medical history and general health.

Who is most at risk of HIV?

The risk of contracting HIV is increased among those who engage in unprotected sex, have sex with multiple partners, or share drug injecting equipment. The risk is also higher among men who have sex with men and among the black afro-caribbean community. 

What are the risks if HIV is left undiagnosed and untreated?

If HIV is left undiagnosed and untreated, the likelihood that it will progress to AIDS is greatly increased. At this stage, the immune system will be severely compromised, leaving the body vulnerable to any number of life-threatening conditions.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of HIV?

Early signs of HIV can be hard to identify. The more severe symptoms tend to be caused by other infections, bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi, which progress further in patients whose immune system is inhibited by HIV. Around 80% of suffered develop flu-like symptoms around 2 to 6 weeks after contracting the virus. This is known as acute retroviral syndrome and symptoms include fever and chills, joint and muscle aches, weakness and fatigue, a sore throat and dry cough, enlarged glands, skin rash, loss of appetite, and thrush.

What are the long term effects of HIV?

If it is not treated properly, HIV can cause serious damage to your immune system. AIDS is the condition that develops at stage three of HIV, when the body’s ability to fight infection is seriously weakened. At this stage, the risk of developing a life-threatening illness is greatly greatly increased, as the body is extremely vulnerable to what are known as opportunistic infections (IOs).

Treatment

How is HIV treated?

Thanks to large amounts of research, HIV can now be effectively treated. Those who are at a high risk of contracting the virus may chose to take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as a preventative measure. A similar drug, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can prevent the virus from taking hold if taken within 72 hours of initial infection. If you test positive for HIV, you will be treated with antiretroviral drugs.

Is there a cure for HIV or AIDS?

There is currently no cure for HIV, and research into its remission is ongoing. However, with good treatment it is possible to maintain a high quality of life despite being infected with AIDS. Furthermore, the right treatment can leave the virus ’undetectable’ in the system, at which point it is not transmittable.

How to live with HIV?

Thanks to developments in treatment, people with HIV are able to live much longer and with a much better quality of life. Asa result, not all cases of HIV progress to AIDS, the final and most serious stage. If you test positive for HIV, the best ways you can help yourself are:

  • Seek a medical consultation and treatment as soon as you know your result is positive
  • Make sure your healthcare provider has experience in treating HIV
  • Follow your treatment plan strictly, making sure to take your medication regularly
  • Learn as much as you can about the virus and how it can influence your life
  • Seek support from friends and family, social care providers and mental health workers
  • Live a healthy lifestyle. Make sure to stay well rested and try to exercise regularly. If you need advice on how to follow a healthy diet, seek the advice of a dietitian. 

Q&A

What are other blood-bourne STIs?

Blood-borne STIs are STIs that are carried in the blood and can be transmitted through contact with the blood of an infected individual, as well as through sexual contact. Blood-borne STIs include HIV, hepatitis B and C, and syphilis.

Can you catch HIV from kissing?

It is almost impossible to catch HIV from kissing. The only instance in which this could occur if is both participants had bleeding gums and blood from the infected partner entered the bloodstream of the negative partner.

Can you contract HIV by any other means that sex?

HIV can be transmitted via means other than sexual contact. As a blood-borne infection, it can be spread through the sharing of drug injecting equipment, sharing of tattoo or piercing needles, being accidentally pricked with a needle, or by a blood transfusion. HIV can also be passed from a mother to her child in the womb, during birth, and through breastfeeding.

Is HIV an STI?

HIV can be transferred through sexual contact, and so is classed as an STI. More specifically, it is a sexualy transmitted blod-borne infection (STBBI).

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