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Plymouth hospital to pioneer free do-it-yourself HIV tests

The at-home testing kits will be available from 22 November Photo:

A hospital in Plymouth will become the first in the UK to offer free do-it-yourself HIV testing kits.

The revolutionary service will trial at the Derriford Hospital in Devon, after sexual health doctors at their GU clinic secured £21,000 to pilot the scheme. They hope it will help to prevent late diagnosis and further transmission of the disease.

The kit works rather like a home pregnancy test. After requesting and being sent a kit via the GU clinic's website, patients can take their own oral sample by swabbing their gum. They will get their results in the privacy of their home within twenty minutes, with no need to wait for samples to be analysed in a lab.

Doctors at Derriford Hospital believe that home testing will help reach people who have not been tested for the disease before, or who would not consider themselves to be high risk.

We believe that offering a free web based service for home HIV testing using oral sampling will improve testing in people who have not wanted to access traditional testing services.

– Dr Rachel Challenor, Consultant in Genito-Urinary Medicine

The GU clinic at Derriford Hospital already provides traditional HIV testing and support services, which will continue.

Although the test is reliable and has been approved for use, users need to understand when it might have limitations. By providing the tests we are able to support people through the testing process and understanding their results. We care for patients diagnosed with HIV so are able to ensure appropriate access to care if tests are positive and further advice if tests are negative.

– Dr Zoe Warwick, Consultant in Genito-Urinary Medicine

The trial will run for at least a year, and if successful may be extended into a nationwide service. For more information about HIV click here.