What is it?

Many places in the UK now offer free testing at home kits for people who aren’t showing any symptoms or signs of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and just want a routine check-up in the comfort and privacy of their own home. There are also other kits that can be bought online or from pharmacies.

There are generally two types of kits you can use at home:

Self-sampling – you take samples yourself and then send them to a laboratory to be tested, and get your results back in a few days.

Home HIV testing – you take a sample yourself and then get a result at home.

How does it work?

You can get free testing at home kits online or in some sexual health clinics but what is available will depend on where you live.

You will be asked for some information about you and the type of sex you have but don’t worry, all the answers you give will be kept confidential.

Self-sampling kits usually test for the most common STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV. The test kit will arrive in the post in a plain envelope and will have everything you need to take the samples, and a freepost return envelope to send them back.

What samples are collected?

The contents of self-sampling kits will depend on the answers you gave about yourself and the type of sex you have. Common samples are:

Blood sample – this will be used to test for syphilis and HIV. A lancet (a small needle) is used to prick your finger and you collect a few drops of blood into a tube.

Anal, vaginal, and throat swabs – these will be used to test for chlamydia and gonorrhoea. It is a small cotton bud swab that you insert and rub around the area for a few seconds.

Urine sample – this will be used to test for chlamydia and gonorrhoea.

Your kit will come with instructions explaining how to best take the samples and some also link to video guides online.

Home HIV testing kits usually have to be purchased but in some areas you may be able to get a testing kit for HIV for free. Kits come with instructions on how to take the test, advice once you have your test result and further support.

What happens if I need treatment?

When your samples have been tested you will be contacted (normally via text message) with your results. If you have an infection you will get advice about treatment and further support. Usually they can help make you an appointment at a local clinic for treatment.

If you think you have an STI it’s advised that you go to a sexual health clinic for treatment as soon as possible to prevent passing it on to your sexual partners.

Who offers postal testing?

The NHS does fund post STI testing, but whether it's available to you depends on your area. Both R U Clear and SH:24 service some parts of the UK, but can't provide testing kits outside of these areas.

If there is no funded postal testing service near you, you can pay to have a kit send to your home address.