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Charity hands out free at-home HIV tests to gay men and black Africans

A leading sexual health charity is offering home HIV test kits for free as part of a pilot scheme to tackle the disease.

The Terrance Higgins Trust is offering 4,500 HIV test kits to people who are at high risk of the disease, including gay men and black Africans.

The kit checks for HIV antibodies in a small drop of blood and, like a pregnancy test, two lines appear if the test is positive.

Those who do receive a positive result have been encouraged by the charity to contact a local sexual health clinic or call the Trust on their confidential helpline.

The test, which takes 15 minutes, is easy to use without the help of a medical professional.

Dr Michael Brady, medical director at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “Unlike postal testing, you do not need to post your sample away - you will find out your HIV status privately, in your own space, in your own time, on your terms.

“We hope this will empower people who might not have time to go into a clinic or wait weeks for a result to find out their HIV status.

A recent survey, the National Gay Men's Sex Survey, commissioned by the Trust found that one in four gay and bisexual men have never had an HIV test, while one in three are no definite about their HIV status.

The survey was carried out by Sigma Research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine saw more then 15,300 men take part.

Brady added: “Around a fifth of people living with HIV in the UK don't know they have it. It's never a good idea to be unsure of your HIV status. 

“Testing puts you in control and, thanks to treatment, could stop you from getting seriously ill, enable you to live a normal lifespan and prevent you from passing the virus on to anyone else.

“That's why it's so important that we continue looking for new ways to make HIV testing more accessible to those most at risk.”

Terrence Higgins Trust is offering the tests to eligible people on a first come first serve basis.

The Trust says the results of the pilot will help the charity to grasp the level of demand for the kits before they roll out the scheme more widely.