For the first time, a legally approved HIV self-testing kit is available to buy in the UK.
The BioSURE HIV Self Test will enable people to test themselves when and where they like, with a 99.7% accuracy rate.
An estimated 26,000 people in the UK have HIV but are unaware of it, making them unknowingly responsible for the majority of onwards transmissions.
Due to developments in treatments available, HIV is now a manageable disease but late diagnosis can have a devastating impact on health and life expectancy.
The self test kit uses a small amount of blood from a finger prick sample to detect the presence of HIV antibodies and offers a result in just 15 minutes.
BioSure founder Brigette Bard said its launch is a significant step towards normalising HIV testing.
It is only available online as she said the main reason for people using it is so they can be discreet.
"Knowing your HIV status is critical and the launch of this product will empower people to discreetly test themselves when it is convenient to them and in a place where they feel comfortable," she said.
All positive test results will need to be confirmed by a healthcare professional and it is recommended that those in high-risk groups are tested every three months.
The only alternative currently available is "home sampling", which involves a person collecting a blood sample at home - which she said is 160 times larger than the sample required for a self test - and sending it by post to a laboratory.
They are then informed of their result by text or by phone five days later.
Dr Michael Brady of Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust described the new home testing kit as a "really exciting development".
"Rates of undiagnosed HIV and late diagnoses remain unacceptably high in the UK and continue to contribute to unnecessary illness and onward transmission of the virus," he said.
"We know that early diagnosis and access to successful HIV treatment has major benefits, not just for those infected but also for public health in general by reducing HIV transmission.
"The single biggest thing that we can do to have a major impact on the HIV epidemic is to dramatically increase HIV testing rates, especially in those most at risk. The availability of HIV self-testing will help us achieve that."
Deborah Gold, chief executive of the National Aids Trust (NAT), said: "We currently have a long way to go when it comes to diagnosing people with HIV on time.
"Over 40% of people living with HIV are diagnosed late, meaning they have been living with HIV for at least four years.
"People diagnosed late are 11 times more likely to die in the first year after diagnosis.
"To address this public health challenge we need to look at new ways for people to test and self-testing is an important and welcome additional option."
My name is Josue HIV+ since 2009, 29 years old, homeless, living in the U.S. on my own without any family. I am hoping and working towards a better life in the US.
I am Brother Barnabas-Francis n/SSF (novice in the Society of Saint Francis) and I was diagnosed in 2001. I joined SSF in 2008. I am not ashamed of my status and believe that those who can should stand up and be counted so that we can end the stigma!
Maria’s Journal, started by Maria Mejia has leveraged social media via video blogs, blogging, public speaking, and press interviews to continually combat HIV/AIDS stigma, answer questions, and advocate for the poor and disenfranchised. During the ongoing Florida ADAP crisis, she used her online presence to spread the word to the state’s Latino community, and others, to help galvanize support for the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. Maria has been HIV-positive since she was 18 years old. Maria’s Journal can be viewed online here.
Bishop Joyce Turner Keller has lofted the term “southern hospitality” to an entirely new level. She is not only the founder and CEO of Aspirations, a non-profit faith-based community service organization, but someone who is living with HIV/AIDS herself, and has dedicated herself to educating, supporting and inspiring others living with HIV/AIDS throughout the nation.
We are the Lorain County Aids Task Force . An all volunteer HIV Social Service Agency & we agree there is No Shame About Being HIV Positive. We are a community that cares and together we WILL make a difference.
Sonya rises up to HIV to let the world know "have no shame about being HIV +" Though, HIV negative Sonya has experienced the tragic toll of this epidemic. She lost many friends. She takes on AIDS Awareness and Activism in memory of all of her friends who have died from AIDS and all who continue to live with this disease. She was featured in an article regarding her awareness initiative.
Mark (left) and Michael are HIV+ and enjoying life and love together. Mark chronicles life with HIV on his popular and funny blog, www.MyFabulousDisease.com
My name is Zee. I have been HIV positive for 25 years now and I had a daughter born with aids. I had to learn how to deal with this virus me and my child could have a happy live. I caught the virus from an iv drug user that did not tell me that he had the virus and I found out about it when she was born. I was 30 years old when I found out and I am now 54. My child who was born with aids is now 25.
K came to see me in the hospital on my 31st bday!!! This was taken on My 31st birthday 3 days after I was diagnosed with AIDS on Nov 4, 2010. I love this picture!!! You can feel the love between me and my daughter. I have since become undetectable, I am an avid advocate, I am working on my activism. Most importantly, I am still here to make great memories with my beautiful daughter!!! She is not ashamed to have a MOMMY who is HIV+ and I am not ashamed to be living with HIV!
Originally from Kenya, Africa Anthony age 25, has been HIV positive since 2008. He currently resides in Seattle, WA and is a LGBT and HIV Activist.
28 years and still thriving, NO shame here!
My name is Ryan Kelly. I contracted HIV in April 2010. I was a crystal meth addict at the time I contracted the disease. I thought my life was over and my positive status drove me deeper into my addiction. Against all odds, I rose above and stopped using drugs. I now live a fulfilling life. I used to say I had to "deal" with having HIV. Now I know it is simply something I am "living" with and I am not ashamed to say that I am HIV positive.
Dona Lackey is a single mother, a Medical Massage Therapist, a Massage Instructor and a Pharmacy Inventory Manager who was diagnosed HIV + in 2006. She refuses to let the Positive diagnosis become a life-style detriment and instead chose to inspire others through blogging and artwork. Dona is turning 40 years old in July 2013 and she lives in the Kansas City, MO Metro area.
My name is Joey Pineda, from NYC and I was diagnosed with HIV in 1990 at the age of 19 when I had no clue what HIV was I thought it was a simple cold virus. Today I've educated myself and try to help others educate themselves about sex, condom use, medications use and their possible side effects. I'm an open book if you like to ask me a question please do.
I was diagnosed December 13 2001 and was knowingly infected by my ex-husband who failed to tell me his status. I have known him since I was 14 years old and married him when I was 30 years old. I trusted his word which evidently was not enough. I am a native of Philadelphia Pa but currently reside in NC. I have been an open activist in my community since 2004.