Superdrug has become the first UK high street shop to offer HIV self-testing kits.
The move, which comes into effect from Wednesday (8 August), has been welcomed by HIV charities, who say it will provide greater to access to testing at a time when HIV and sexual health services around the country are facing cuts.
Currently, people who want an HIV test can get a free test at their local sexual health service, or order a self-testing kit online, either by paying or for free through publicly funded initiatives such as test/hiv.
The HIV self-testing kit stocked by Superdrug, from BioSure, are now available online and in all 200 of the retailer's pharmacy stores for £33.95.
The test, which requires users to place a small drop of blood into a reader, is at least 99.7% accurate and provides results in 15 minutes.
Marc Thompson, health improvement lead at Terrence Higgins Trust praised Superdrug's decision to stock to kits.
"Around 1 in 8 people living with HIV in the UK remain undiagnosed, which is why we strongly welcome anything that increases access to and awareness of HIV testing," he said.
"It’s great to see a big high street brand like Superdrug recognising the need for providing self-tests kits from BioSure, where you can test at home and get a result within just 15 minutes."
Mr Thompson added that those who may not be able to afford the cost of a self-testing kit should remember that free tests are available both at clinics and online.
"Not everyone can afford to buy a kit and it’s important to make clear that you can test for free at any sexual health clinic," he continued.
"We’re also offering free self-tests kits for communities most affected by HIV in the UK, including gay and bisexual men, trans women and people from black African communities.
"You simply order the test online and we send it to your chosen address. It comes in plain packaging and we’re also offer a click and collect service."
Thompson went on: "Upping HIV testing in this country is key to ending the epidemic. That’s because those who don’t know they have HIV are not accessing the treatment they need to look after their health and significantly increasing the chances of unwittingly passing on the virus.
"HIV treatment works by reducing the amount of blood in the virus in the blood to undetectable levels, which both protects the immune system and means HIV can’t be passed on to anyone else – with or without a condom."
To find your nearest sexual health information and support service visit NHS Choices.
Words: Will Stroude