Free HIV tests that can be done at home are being offered this week to people in England.
It is part of a government drive to improve diagnosis, which dropped off during the Covid pandemic.
The kit is small enough to fit through the letterbox and arrives in plain packaging through the post.
It gives a result within 15 minutes by testing a drop of blood from a finger prick. A “reactive” result means HIV is possible and a clinic check is needed.
Support and help is available to arrange this.
If the result is negative it means the test did not detect HIV. If you think you are at risk of HIV, however, you should test every three months because it can take a while for the virus to show in the blood.
About 4,400 people in England are living with undiagnosed HIV, which comes with serious health risks.
HIV medication can keep the virus at undetectable levels, meaning you cannot pass HIV on and your health is protected.
Most people get the virus from someone who is unaware they have it, according to the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) charity which campaigns about and provides services relating to HIV and sexual health.
HIV testing rates remain a fifth lower than before the Covid-19 pandemic – with heterosexual men in particular now testing far less than in 2019.
Testing among gay and bisexual men has increased but rates of testing among women have fallen by 22% compared to 2019, while there has been a 41% drop for heterosexual men.
Straight men and women are also far more likely to be diagnosed at a late stage.
THT has been working with the BBC drama EastEnders to raise awareness of HIV among heterosexuals through a storyline where a lead character called Zack Hudson is diagnosed with the virus.
Taku Mukiwa, head of health programmes at THT, said: “Gay and bisexual men and black African people continue to be the most impacted by HIV in the UK, but anyone who’s sexually active can be affected and should think about testing.
“As the EastEnders HIV storyline we’ve been advising on shows, the truth is it’s always better to know your HIV status, whether positive or negative.
“If it’s negative, you can make sure it stays that way.
“While, as Zack in EastEnders is learning, huge advances in HIV treatment mean you can live a long healthy life with the virus, have children who are HIV-negative and that HIV can’t be passed on to anyone else.”
People can live with HIV for a long time without any symptoms. Testing is the only way to know your HIV status.
Using a condom during sex can prevent infections.
Dr Alison Brown, interim head of HIV surveillance at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “HIV does not discriminate, no matter your gender or sexual orientation.
“Taking up a free and confidential HIV test regularly when having condom-less sex will ensure you’re diagnosed early and started on effective treatment, helping to reduce transmission of HIV and the number of people with undiagnosed HIV.”
It is recommended that anyone who is sexually active tests for HIV annually, and more regularly if you have a new or multiple partners.
The free testing initiative coincides with National HIV Testing Week and making progress towards the government’s goal of ending new HIV cases by 2030.