Test-driving the first instant home HIV self-test

This week saw the eagerly awaited launch of Biosure, a HIV test designed to be used at home.

Unlike our HIV test where samples get analysed in the lab, Biosure gives ‘probable’ results in just 15 minutes – impressive, even by our standards.

It would be far too easy for us draw your attention to the fact that Biosure isn’t free (£29.95 price tag), that it doesn’t test for other STIs, such as syphilis (which is on the rise), nor do Biosure offer any human support for those who test positive.

But despite this, we’re in complete support – why? Well, this is how I look at it; the more testing the better… and if Biosure can access those who just want to test for HIV, who can afford the £29.95 and are able to manage instant results (without a clinician to lean on), then it’s hard to find fault.  

So…having rubber stamped the concept, how does the experience fair – how does it feel to feel to unpack, take the test and get your results?

Glyn and I thought we’d have a crack… with Glyn doing the test, while I observed.

Here’s what we thought:

From an onlooker’s perspective

The first thing I noticed was the size of the box – it’s substantial, well made and well finished – it could almost be described as a presentation box, akin to the packaging you might expect a high-end perfume to be lavishly packed in.

On opening the lid, paper instructions, leaflets and other pieces of paper sprawl out.

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Underneath this raft of paperwork, you find the kits contents nicely laid-out, with each component homed in a discreet compartment. In the middle of the box lies further paperwork – an integrated booklet, seemingly designed to be read when you’ve completed the test.

Glyn appeared to taken-aback by the amount of paperwork – he shuffled and rearranged on the table and started to read. He quickly read the ‘what if’ leaflet before moving on to the large instruction booklet which describes how to take the test. Flicking through the pages, Glyn tore open the sealed bag of test components and out fell a lancet, what looked like a large vile and a plaster… he started to assemble the kit… plenty of toing-and-froing from kit bits to instructions.

Once assembled, he continued to refer to the instructions, taking his time to use the lancet to pierce the side of one of his fingers. 

From my perspective, the test appears to be far easier to do than the instructions make out. Having completed the test, Glyn waits for his results and refers to the smaller, instruction booklet, that’s integral to the box. Having scan read it a couple of times, he starts again… this time taking his time... but he still looks confused.

From a user’s perspective 

Ordering the test was a matter of clicks away - quick and simple without any annoying bugs you get on a lot of e-commerce websites. Biosure provide well set-out, useful information and a clear idea of what you are ordering (although the image of the test kit box on the website does look a little intimidating).

The test arrived the next day in discrete plain packaging - it could have been a book or DVD inside.

The test kit box struck me as something I would associate more with a high-end product as opposed to a home testing kit. It did cross my mind how much of the £29.95 I paid for the kit went on the packaging. For me it was the test kit and supporting material that mattered, not the box it was housed in.

As Chris picked-up on, I struggled a bit with the amount of paperwork. There are two sets of instructions – one to explain how to do the test and one to guide you through your results, plus some other informational pages.

I had to read the first set of instructions a couple of times before I felt confident enough to start my test. The illustrations were most helpful in understanding what I needed to do.

The vacuum-sealed bag with the kit components in was quite tough to rip open, but this may be because this type of packaging is a particular requirement.

Having been slightly intimidated by the instructions, doing the test was actually very quick and simple. I pulled off the lancet cap and with an almost painless prick on the side of my finger, and a little squeezing, I soon had enough blood to be cleverly sucked-up by the vial that analyses your results.

Whilst waiting for my results (which only takes 15 minutes) I read the final set of instructions. Unusually, the instructions read from the back page to the front page. If felt a little odd initially - as it would if you started reading a book backwards - but did make sense in terms of taking you towards the results appearing in the vial positioned to the left of the instruction booklet.

My anxiety levels rose as I waited for my results, and reflecting back on this, it closely resembled how I have felt completing an instant HIV test in clinic. The difference was that I wasn’t directly supported by clinic staff. This felt acceptable to me, but I am sure there is lots more to be done in areas such as peer/friend support in the home, further development of support material, and ensuring people are effectively signposted to support if they have a positive result.

So in summary?

For all the fancy packaging and convoluted instructions, the testing process itself is well designed making it quick and easy to use. Simplified instructions that reflect the simple nature of the test - hiding technical detail and embodying clarity and reassurance would help make this a test that lots of people will probably want to use.