Free HIV postal test kits are now available across England to eligible individuals

testing kit

Since 2015, Public Health England (PHE) and a number of participating local authorities have funded a national HIV postal testing scheme for people from communities which experience a higher prevalence of HIV. These include gay and bisexual men, black Africans, and individuals who have a partner from a high prevalence country.

In support of National HIV Testing Week 2017, PHE have expanded availability of free HIV postal test kits to all areas of England. The additional tests will be available to order from now until Thursday 4 January 2018. Last year, more than 20,000 tests were ordered during a similar period and it is anticipated that even more will be distributed this year.

HIV postal test kits, or home sampling kits as they are also known, allow individuals to take a sample themselves at home by taking a finger-prick blood test. Unlike home testing kits, where the individual receives an immediate result, this postal test is then sent to a local laboratory for HIV testing and specialist management.

If a person has a reactive test result, they are contacted within five working days and given support options and information on where to get specialist services. Those with a negative result are contacted and informed within three days, or they can log in online using their unique personal code to check their results.

The national postal testing scheme complements existing HIV testing services. A postal test is highly accurate just four weeks after infection, and individuals who get a reactive result can get help in arranging a follow up clinical appointment. The scheme offers individual a viable alternative to testing in-person, and also provides the system major cost savings.

Postal HIV tests can be ordered from

Social media pack for National HIV Testing Week

We have created a social media pack to help you promote National HIV testing Week on your social media channels.

What’s in the pack?

  • Images – a selection of images for use on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any another social network.
  • Logos – National HIV Testing Week logos.
  • Links – links to useful HIV testing information, tools and the self-sampling service.
  • Videos – infographic videos explaining the various ways one can get tested.
  • Suggested posts – examples of posts for Facebook and tweets for Twitter.

Download pack (excluding videos) (36Mb)
Download video 1 | video 2

Before you download the pack, here are some things to remember:


This year’s theme is Give HIV The Finger, which aims to demonstrate that getting tested for HIV is as easy as a quick finger-prick test.

We’re asking people to raise their finger and share a message of support.


This year’s hashtag is #HIVTestWeek. Hashtags are not case sensitive so using #hivtestweek would work as well – we’ve just used capitals to make it easier to read what the hashtag is about.

Home sampling HIV testing kits

The national home sampling HIV testing service will be available across all of England from Monday 6 November 2017 to the beginning of January 2018.  If you can, please use the links we’ve provided in the pack when posting to social media, as they contains tracking that will help us understand if the posts lead to people ordering self-sampling kits.

Useful web tools to promote

National HIV Testing Week is an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of HIV testing, as well as increasing opportunities to test – be it in clinical settings, in primary care, through community-based rapid testing or via postal testing.

As such, we have created some tools to help individuals make decisions on how they would like to get tested, find out when they need to get tested and where to get tested.  These tool can be found on the It Starts With Me website. You can include links to these tools in some of your social media posts where appropriate. The site works well on both desktop and mobiles making it very easy to use the tools.

• ‘Where to test’ tool: This helps people to find out where to get a free HIV test near them by searching by either postcode or a place name.

• ‘When to test’ tool: People are invited to answer a few questions about themselves and their sexual activities and they get a recommendation on when they should get an HIV test.

• ‘Which test’ tool: This tool helps people to find out a testing option that might be suitable for them.  It helps people understand that there are different options on how one can get tested.

Download pack (excluding videos) (36Mb)
Download video 1 | video 2

For sector updates:


Get ready for National HIV Testing Week 2017

National HIV Testing Week (NHTW) starts on Saturday 18 November 2017. The purpose of the week is to promote regular testing among the most affected population groups and to reduce the rates of undiagnosed people and those diagnosed late.

In the UK, people are testing more, staying protected by using condoms and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), getting diagnosed and starting HIV treatment earlier. Thanks to this combination approach, the UK is witnessing a substantial decline in HIV diagnoses.

However, while rates of late diagnosis have reduced, especially among MSM, too many are still diagnosed, especially among heterosexual men and women.

National HIV Testing Week puts a national spotlight on HIV testing

National HIV Testing Week provides amplified opportunities for individuals who would otherwise never test to do so, and prompts all individuals at risk to get tested.

Last year hundreds of clinics and organisations participated by raising awareness, providing extra testing opportunities and promoting services – with many using the free and customisable printed and digital resources provided by HIV Prevention England.

How to get involved

We encourage you to do whatever is best for your local area and community. Here are some ideas.

  • Order and use National HIV Testing Week branded posters and resources in your service.
  • Organise local testing events in clinic and as part of outreach in community settings.
  • Register the testing events you have scheduled for November through our online ‘Test Finder’ tool. This will be promoted to people at high risk in your local area via online promotion.
  • Share, repost and retweet National HIV Testing Week social media content to all public networks, and use the social media pack on our website to customise your posts.

For full details on how to take part, see the campaign briefings below.

Campaign briefing for Commissioners, Directors of Public Health, lead Councillors and Health and Wellbeing Boards [PDF] Campaign briefing for clinicians and other primary care professionals [PDF]


Campaign briefing for HIV and other community-based organisations [PDF] Campaign briefing for Faith Leaders and communities [PDF]

Over 20,0000 Postal HIV test kits ordered around National HIV Testing Week 2016

The promotion of the national HIV home sampling service between 7 November 2016 and 8 January 2017 resulted in over 20,000 kits ordered, a substantially larger number compared to the same period in the previous year.

The national HIV home-sampling service

Since 2015, Public Health England (PHE) and Local Authorities have provided a national HIV home-sampling service for the most at-risk populations for HIV acquisition. For most parts of the year, the free test kits are available only in areas of England where local authorities choose to fund the service. However, during periods of national promotion, PHE fund the service across the whole of England.

The most notable period of national promotion is around National HIV Testing Week (NHTW), which occurs in November each year. HIV Prevention England (HPE) promote the home-sampling kits in the lead-up to, during, and after NHTW, encouraging people to order a kit online, take their own sample and return it by post to a laboratory for testing and results management. The test is highly accurate four weeks after infection, and almost 100 per cent accurate after eight weeks.

These kits differ from HIV self-testing kits, which do not need to be analysed in a lab: individuals get an immediate result that they can read themselves. The self-test is most accurate 12 weeks or more after infection.

Home-sampling kits ordered

The promotion in the period around NHTW 2016 resulted in 20,175 home-sampling kits ordered between November 7 2016 and 8 January 2017. This is 4,405 kits more compared to the same period in 2015-2016.

Table 1: home-sampling tests ordered during the full promotion period

Description Nov 2015 to Jan 2016 Nov 2016 to January 2017 Change
Number of kits ordered 15,770 20,175 up 4,405
Number of kits returned 7,985 10,421 up 2,436
Return rate 50.6% 51.7% up 1.1%

Table 2: home-sampling tests ordered during NHTW

Description 21 Nov to 29 Nov 2015 19 Nov to 27 Nov 2016 Change
Number of kits ordered 5,777 5,740 down 37
Number of kits returned 2,895 3,081 up 186
Return rate 50.1% 53.7% up 3.6%

Results management

Test results are managed by a community-based organisation partner who provides further support and guidance on next steps. Tests give ‘reactive’ or ‘non-reactive’ results. Reactive results are further classified into ‘high’ and ‘low’ reactives, based on a particular cut-off index. While high reactives are more likely to have an HIV infection confirmed, all reactive results are immediately referred to appropriate services for further testing and clinical confirmation.

The previous year, 1.1 per cent of analysed tests were reactive and of these, 0.7 per cent were high reactives. This information can be looked at alongside HIV positive test results in other testing settings, including specialist sexual health clinics and general practice settings:

Table 3: results comparison by setting (PHE, 2016)

Specialist sexual health clinics
Positivity rate for service users (2015 data)
0.3% (2,850/998,503)
Specialist sexual health clinics
Positivity rate for service users (2015 data)
0.3% (2,850/998,503)
National home-sampling service
High reactive rate for service users (Nov 2015 – Sept 2016 data)*
0.7% (128/18,270)

* high reactive test results likely to be confirmed as positive

Currently, 85 local authorities have committed to implementing the national scheme. Considering the increasing demand for the service, the relatively high reactivity rate and the reasonable cost of the service, there is scope for broader action on making postal tests available and promoting them to communities and individuals who may be at a higher risk for HIV acquisition.

More information

NICE/PHE guideline on increasing HIV testing uptake

The full report for 2015-2016 on the national home-sampling scheme will be available from Public Health England in March 2017.

Social media resources for National HIV Testing Week

We are only a few days away from National HIV Testing Week which kicks off this Saturday, 19 November. We’ve put together some sample posts, tweets and images to help you with your social media to promote the week.

The sample posts and tweets link through to different tools on our It Starts With Me website.

When to test tool

Suggested post for Facebooktrim-1

It’s National HIV Testing Week. Find out if you need to test

Thousands of people are getting tested for National HIV Testing Week. Find out if you need to test

Suggested tweets

Thousands of people are getting tested for HIV during #HIVTestWeek. Find out if you need to test

In the UK, thousands of people are living with HIV and don’t even know it. Find out if you need to test

Where to test tool

Suggested post for Facebook

Thousands of people are getting tested for National HIV Testing Week. Find out where to test

Suggested tweet

Make a difference today and join thousands of people getting tested for National HIV Testing Week. Find where to test #HIVTestWeek

Which test tool

Suggested post for Facebook

Still trying to make a decision on how to get tested for HIV? Here is a quick tool to help decide on the type of HIV test that might suit you.

Suggested tweet

Confused about how to get tested for HIV? Find out which test might be right for you #HIVTestWeek

Order a postal test

Suggested posts for Facebook

It’s National HIV Testing Week. Join thousands of people getting tested by ordering a free HIV postal test today.

Thousands of people are getting tested for HIV this week for National HIV Testing Week. Order a free HIV postal test today.

Suggested tweets

Make a difference today and join thousands of people getting tested for National HIV Testing Week #ImTesting. Find where to test

Are you getting tested for #HIVTestWeek? Order an HIV postal test today


Here are some images you can download and use with your posts.

Square images:

Image one | Image two | Image three

Image four | Image five | Image six

Image seven | Image eight | Image nine

Image ten | Image eleven

Landscape images:

Image one | Image twoImage three

Image fourImage fiveImage six

Image sevenImage eightImage nine

Image tenImage eleven

Social media flashcard

Download and print off our doubled-sided social media flashcard to personalise photos and posts during National HIV Testing Week. You can also share it with anyone else who’d like to use it over the week.