What is HIV?
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus which attacks the body’s immune system, specifically CD4 cells, making it harder for the body to fight infections and diseases.
Is there a cure?
No, but there are medications that mean people living with HIV can live long, healthy lives.
Why would someone use the BioSure HIV Self Test?
You have the results in 15 minutes!
If you live in a major city then you are probably only ever a stone’s throw away from a GUM clinic where you can access free and confidential sexual health advice, testing and treatment. Unfortunately they can sometimes be a bit busy and the opening hours don’t suit everyone.
A HIV home test kit means you don’t have to take time off work or sit in a waiting room for hours. It also means you can avoid people if you have social anxiety or don’t want people to see you crying (tests can be emotional, whatever the result).
If you live out in the sticks there are likely to be fewer clinics in your area and the chances of you bumping into someone you know may be increased. A HIV home test kit could solve those issues.
But testing is scary…
Some people are scared to have a HIV test because they fear finding out they are HIV positive could change their lives forever. They’d be right. Knowing your status could be the difference between living a healthy life with HIV and living in ignorant bliss until the damage the virus causes to your body is impossible to ignore. With early treatment the life expectancy of someone living with HIV is the same as someone without HIV. Late treatment has a less favourable prognosis.
I completely understand how frightening it is to think you may have HIV but burying your head in the sand isn’t the answer. When I was in my early 20s I went to my GP about swollen lymph nodes, expecting to be sent away with some antibiotics. Instead I was sent away with information about a local HIV clinic.
Imagining the worst
I think it was only a few days between seeing my GP and getting tested but it was enough time to play out my imagined doomed future (I was young and didn’t know much about HIV). I pictured my mother hysterically crying (I had no doubt she would take the diagnosis worse than me). I imagined the whispers as the gossip spread like wildfire. I wondered if there was any point in me even finishing my degree. I was planning my funeral.
I’m a bit of a goth so the last one isn’t actually HIV test specific but you get the picture. Testing can be scary, especially when you don’t know a huge amount about the treatment options available. There is nothing wrong with feeling scared, apprehensive, angry, lonely….but feelings can’t hurt you. You can be shit-your-pants scared as you wait to know your test result and the worst that will happen is you shit your pants. That would be mortifying but it’s not fatal. Not knowing your status could be.
*No more fearmongering. I promise*
Why knowing your status and regular testing is awesome
- Knowing your status means you can plan how to protect your health, for example by taking PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) or using condoms
- If you want to stop using condoms with a partner it is sensible for you to both know your status to understand the risks and plan how to manage them
- Regular testing leads to early diagnosis and early diagnosis and treatment leads to a longer, healthier life
- Getting treatment for HIV can lead to an undetectable viral load, which means it is not possible to transmit HIV to other people
Of course, there are many other STIs out there so a negative HIV test certainly doesn’t mean condoms are obsolete.
How does the test work?
This HIV home test detects HIV antibodies, which are proteins produced by the immune system when it detects the virus. It can take between four and twelve weeks for the first antibodies to be produced so the test may not detect infections that happened within the last three months. If you are worried about a more recent exposure please go to a clinic or your GP. They will be able to offer other tests that can detect more recent infections and if the exposure was in the last 72 hours you can take post-exposure prophylaxis which significantly decreases the chance of contracting HIV.
Is it accurate?
It is very accurate. 99.7% clinical sensitivity (out of 1000 positive results an average of 997 will be correct, 3 will be false positives) and 99.9% clinical specificity (out of 1000 negative results an average of 999 will be correct, 1 will be a false negative).
I have issues with manual dexterity
It is a bit fiddly so if you can’t get somebody to help you out, you may need to visit a GUM clinic or your GP.
I don’t like needles/blood/pain
It really doesn’t hurt but if a finger prick test isn’t an option for you there are saliva tests available online. They are not as accurate, however.
I’m worried I’ll fuck it up
It’s ridiculously simple. If you follow the pictures you’ll be fine. If you somehow manage to fuck up, the test will actually tell you because there won’t be a control line when you come to check the results.
- Get everything out of the box and put it all on a flat surface
- Wash your hands
- Pull the buffer bottle out of the end of the device and place it foil side up in the hole in the box
- Prick your finger with the lancet
- Squeeze your finger if the blood isn’t freely flowing freely
- Place the tip of the device in the blood and watch it fill up. It will do it automatically thanks to capillary action
- Immediately stab the end of the device into the foil of the buffer bottle. Press it right down to the bottom of the bottle
- If you don’t see colour moving up the strip after a few minutes double check you have pressed the device as far into the buffer bottle as you can
- Stick a plaster on your finger. If you forget this step your bleeding finger will remind you, as mine did…all over my trousers
- Make a cup of tea and wait for 15 minutes
- Check the control line is visible and read your result
- Dispose of everything in the sealable bag provided. It’s completely fine to go in normal household waste.
If if the result is negative
It’s highly unlikely you will be HIV positive if your last exposure was over 3 months ago. Continue to regularly test either using a HIV home test or at a clinic. If you are exposed to HIV visit a clinic, your GP or A&E within 72 hours of being exposed to HIV so you can access PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis). Consider using condoms to help protect against all STIs and if you are likely to regularly be exposed to HIV consider taking PrEP.
If the test is positive
Whether the result is a complete shock or one you were expecting, you may be feeling lots of emotions and with a home test there may be nobody around you can talk to. You can ring the Terrence Higgins Trust helpline for emotional support and to get information about local services.
Although it is unlikely the result is wrong, it is important to have the diagnosis confirmed by a healthcare professional. They can also start the ball rolling with treatment.
Would you recommend it?
I’d definitely recommend this HIV home test kit. It’s quick, easy, almost painless and frees up those hours spent waiting in the GUM clinic. Clinics do have some advantages though, including being free and having knowledgable staff available to support you. We all have different needs so whether you choose to use the BioSure HIV Self Test at home or go to a clinic, the important thing is that you know your status.
The BioSure HIV Self Test is available for £29.95 from Freedoms Shop
This post does not contain affiliate links. I received the BioSure HIV Self Test kit free, in exchange for a review, from Freedoms Shop. This does not influence my opinion in any way.
Ease of use
Value for money