Frequently asked questions about SH:24, our home tests and ordering with us.
How accurate are the STI tests?
Our simple home STI test kits are highly accurate and reliable when you:
follow the instructions carefully
wait for the recommended window period before you test
do more tests in a clinic after a reactive result for HIV.
Your samples are sent to our partner laboratory to be processed by specialist technicians. We use the same tests that many NHS clinics use.
How to take a blood sample
A blood sample is used to test for HIV, syphilis, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Most people find it easier to take the test after watching our short video. Watch it here to see someone doing the tests. And read out helpful tips on taking your sample.
How to use at home test kit safely
The tests we use are all safe and most people find them easy to use. Some people experience a small amount of discomfort when pricking their finger to take a blood sample.
All kits are CE certified and come with instructions, a lab card and a Freepost return pack.
The tests are similar to those used in NHS clinics and your samples are sent to a professional laboratory for testing.
Can I take an STI test when I'm on my period?
Yes, you can. But your test will be more accurate if you do it on a lighter day of your period or if you wait until you've stopped bleeding.
What type of HIV and syphilis tests do you do?
Our HIV test is a fourth-generation assay test. This tests for HIV I and II antibodies and p24 antigen (a protein often present in the blood soon after infection). This is the most up-to-date test as recommended by BHIVA (British HIV Association)
Our syphilis test is an ECLIA (ElectroChemiLuminescence ImmunoAssay). This test looks for antibodies known as immunoglobulins IgG and IgM. Our lab screens for both HIV and syphilis using the Roche Cobas E Modular platform.
What type of chlamydia and gonorrhoea tests do you use?
For chlamydia and gonorrhoea, we use the nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs), run on the Hologic Panther platform.
Can I take an STI test when I'm pregnant?
Yes, you can. It will not affect the baby if you use a vaginal swab. And the tests are still accurate and reliable.
You’ll be offered HIV and syphilis tests as part of your NHS care when pregnant. If you've been at risk of other infections, you should consider doing tests for chlamydia and gonorrhoea.
Do you test for monkeypox (mpox)?
We cannot test for monkeypox, now known as mpox, with our kits.
If you have any of these symptoms:
a high temperature
swollen lymph nodes – new lumps that appear on your neck, groin or under your arms
a spotty rash that looks similar to a chickenpox rash
contact your GP or local sexual health clinic. Call your surgery or clinic before you visit. They’ll be able to help you with testing and treatment sensitively, safely and confidentially.
Mpox is usually a mild infection that clears up on its own. It’s spread by close contact, like touching a person who has the infection or being in contact with their clothes or bedding.
The smallpox vaccine also works to prevent mpox. The NHS is offering this vaccination to:
men who are gay, bisexual or have sex with other men, and who have multiple partners, participate in group sex or attend sex venues and parties
people who work at sex venues and parties
Does SH:24 test for hepatitis B and hepatitis C?
We do offer hepatitis B and C tests, but they’re not available in all areas.
The local authority that commissions us to deliver services in your area will decide whether or not to offer these tests.
If they do, when you order an STI test you'll be asked some questions that help us understand if you're at risk of becoming infected with hepatitis B or C. We use specialist clinical and local public health information to decide the possible risks.
What if I don't want to be tested for all 4 STIs?
If you do not want to do tests for all of the infections, you might be able to choose your tests.
The tests we offer you depend on the region you're in. The commissioning local authorities and healthcare providers in your area will have agreed with us on which tests we can send out.
If you're not offered a choice of tests and are not happy with testing for the 4 STIs, you do not need to send back all the samples.
All swabs will be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhoea. All blood samples are tested for HIV and syphilis. If you’ve told us you’re living with HIV, we will not test your blood sample for HIV.
Can I get an oral and a rectal swab in my testing kit too?
The tests you get in your testing kit are decided by:
the information you give us when you order
the services available in your area
We work with local authorities to design testing models using UK Health Security Agency and British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) guidance and regional and national statistics. This is also influenced by the budgets and need for sexual health services in each area.
If you’d like an oral or a rectal swab but you’re not offered one when you order, we might be able to help. Reply to any of our text messages and let us know. A member of our clinical team will take a look at your request.
If we cannot help you, we’ll help you find a service near you that can.
How do I return my samples?
Use the return packaging included in your kit to securely send your samples to our lab. This has our address label already attached and the postage has been paid.
This is UN3373 packaging. It’s approved for transporting medical samples and will keep your samples safe.
You might like to make a note of the # number on the address label. This can be used to track your samples with Royal Mail. Once your samples arrive at our lab, we’ll text you.
Then you can just put the sealed package in any local postbox. There is no need to visit the post office.
If you did not get any return packaging in your kit, let us know by replying to one of our text messages, or emailing us at email@example.com. Include the mobile number you used to make your order, your date of birth and your postcode, so we can find your order and organise new packaging to be sent to you.
Our lab cannot accept samples received in any other packaging. Or samples that we have not sent you. This is because different packaging may allow your samples to become contaminated on their journey.
Can I send you different parts of the testing kit at different times?
You can send the swab or urine sample back to us separately from the blood sample.
The lab will test your samples and we’ll text you if there are any problems. Make sure you use the packaging we’ve sent you when you post your samples back.
If you have 2 tests and you’d like to do them at different times to fit with your needs or with window periods (the time it takes between being exposed to an infection and when it’ll show up in a test), we can send you extra return packaging for the separate samples. If you need this, let us know before you take the samples. Just reply to one of our text messages.
Or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your request and your mobile number, date of birth and postcode, so we can find your order and organise this for you.
Your test results
How will I get my results?
Most people are sent their results by text. In some cases, one of our clinicians will call you to talk about your results and treatment. We’ll always text you first to agree on a good time to speak.
What if I lose my mobile phone before I get my results?
What if I don’t have a smartphone?
You do not need a smartphone to use our service. If you have a traditional handset our messages may be delivered to you in 2 or 3 parts, but you'll get the same information and the same level of service.
You can view our website and order a test kit on any mobile device, laptop or computer that's connected to the internet.
Who will see my results? Do you share them with anyone?
We work in partnership with local NHS sexual health clinics to help you manage your sexual health. These clinics can access the information we have about you and your results so that they can help you with any care that needs a visit to a clinic.
This information is kept separate from your main medical record and we will never share information with your GP without your permission, unless there's a legal reason why we must do so.
You can read more about this in our terms and conditions.
If it's important to you that your information is not shared with your local sexual health clinic, contact us on email@example.com and we will try to help.
What if I have an infection? How do I get treatment?
If you have an infection, we will advise you how to get treatment and further support.
If your test result is positive for chlamydia, we can offer treatment by post. If you have complicated symptoms that require examination or further testing, we will help you find a clinic for treatment.
One of our clinicians might contact you to talk about your treatment. We’ll always text you first to agree on a good time to speak.
Should I let my previous partners know if I have an STI?
If you have an infection, you should tell all of your current partners and anyone you’ve had sex with in the last 6 months.
They may have an STI without knowing it and could be passing it on to other people, so it’s important for them to be tested.
We know that this can be difficult. When you get treatment, SH:24 or your local sexual health clinic will be able to help you tell current and previous partners. If you want to do this anonymously, your partners will just be told they’ve had contact with an infection and should get a test.
If you’d like advice on how to talk to your partners, text us by replying to one of our text messages.
What is a reactive result?
A reactive result is not a positive result. A reactive result means the test has reacted to something in your blood.
To diagnose HIV you need to do 3 different types of tests. If you go to a clinic and have blood taken, there’s enough in that blood sample to do all 3 tests. In a finger-prick blood sample done by an online service, there is only enough blood to do the first test.
This first test is very sensitive. It picks up almost all HIV infections but it may also cross-react with other things in your blood.
If you have a reactive result then we’ll discuss this with you and organise for you to have a second blood sample taken in a clinic so that further tests can be done.
In many cases, the initial result is not confirmed and the final result will be negative.
Can I get a hard copy or letter with my test results?
We do not offer hard copy versions, emails or letters with test results, because we cannot confirm who has given the samples. Our test results cannot be used as official documentation of results.
Orders and delivery
Can I order a test for someone else? Can my friend order using my phone number?
No, because we cannot send different people’s results to the same mobile number. To protect your privacy, our service works by linking individual orders and results to a mobile number. Your mobile number can be used for your test only.
If you have a friend or partner who would like a test, they need to place their own order using their own phone number. If you do not do this, the second order might be declined by our system.
If they do not have their own UK or Irish mobile number they’ll need to visit their local sexual health clinic or GP.
We can only accept UK and Irish numbers, we cannot call, text, or receive messages from international numbers.
I'm trans, which gender should I choose when I order?
Our order form is designed to be trans-inclusive, so you can choose the option that’s right for you. We ask for your gender and then ask if it matches the sex you were assigned at birth. We also ask about your genitals so we’re able to give you advice on which test kit will work best for you.
If your genitals don’t fit the cisgender definitions of male and female, or you are intersex, we can help you find the right tests, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can I track my delivery?
If you have ordered contraception or treatment from us, you’ll be sent a text with a tracking link for your delivery.
If you have ordered an STI test kit, this is not tracked. It is sent by Royal Mail 1st Class.
What should I do if my test kit does not arrive?
If your test kit does not arrive within 7 working days, contact us right away. Email us at email@example.com or text us on 07860 041 233, and include your name, date of birth and postcode.
I did not get a mobile verification code, what should I do?
Our verification codes are sent as text messages, so first check that you have a phone signal on your mobile.
Before you start your order, try:
clearing the cookies in your browser
using the private/incognito mode in your browser
using a different browser
We also find that sometimes ordering on a different device can help. So try using your computer instead of your phone, or a tablet instead of your laptop.
Make sure your browsers are not connected across devices. For example, if you’re signed into a Google account on both devices, try signing out.
I've not had a text to say that my samples have arrived at the lab, what should I do?
Please allow up to 7 working days for your samples to be delivered to our lab, in case there are delays with the post.
You’ll get a text when your kit arrives at the lab and is scanned in. Once the kit has arrived, you’ll get your results by text within 72 hours.
Alternatively, if you:
did not post back your samples in the UN3373 medical sample return packaging that was in your testing pack
think it’s been over 7 working days since you posted your samples
are worried that you’re not receiving our text messages
then you can reply to one of our texts and let us know, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your mobile number, date of birth and postcode so we can look into this for you.
I want to cancel my order
To cancel your order, let us know by replying to one of our text messages, or you can email us at email@example.com. Include your mobile number, postcode and date of birth so we can find your order.
If your order has already been sent, we will not be able to cancel it. It might reassure you to know that our kits are discreetly packaged and sent through Royal Mail 1st Class post. They don’t need to be signed for and they have no mention of SH:24 or the NHS on the outside.
If you’ve entered the address incorrectly, the kit will be returned to our distribution centre.
If you get a testing kit but don’t want to use it right now, you can keep it for a few months and use it at a time that suits you. You’ll be able to find an expiry date on the sample tubes and swabs. As long as you use the test before this date, it will be valid.
I need to update my mobile number or my address, how do I do it?
To update your details, reply to one of our texts or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what needs changing.
Include your old number or address, your name and date of birth, as well as the new number or address. We can then update this for you on our systems.
You can also text or email to let us if you need us to resend your test results to a new number.
Data and privacy
How secure is the website?
We use encryption to protect all your data. And it’s all kept securely on a certified network connected to the Health and Social Care Network.
No website can guarantee 100% security. But we can guarantee that we work to some of the highest security and privacy standards in the UK.
Who are our laboratory and pharmacy partners?
In the UK, samples are processed at Southwest Pathology Services and TDL (The Doctors Laboratory). These laboratories are accredited for medical laboratory testing to the ISO 15189 standard by the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS).
In Ireland, samples are processed at Enfer which is accredited for medical laboratory testing to the ISO 15189 standard by the Irish National Accreditation Board (INAB).
Medications are dispensed by our partner pharmacy, The Independent Pharmacy, registered and regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), Care Quality Commission (CQC) and the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).