Self-sampling is being rolled out across Scotland, however it’s not yet available across all health boards.
If this is available in your area, you can test for some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) on your own, without having to go to a sexual health clinic. This is only if you do not have symptoms.
It can be just as reliable as getting tested at a sexual health clinic if done correctly. The most common STIs are:
You might choose to take your samples at home, or somewhere else you feel comfortable.
The testing kits are discreetly packaged and should be small enough to fit through your letterbox.
To test for chlamydia and gonorrhoea, women and other people who have a vagina will be sent a single swab. Men and other people who have a penis will be sent a urine test if they only have vaginal sex, or will be sent a urine test and 2 extra swabs (throat and rectal) if they have partners who have a penis. People who sell sex may be sent additional tests. HIV and syphilis are tested from samples of your blood.
You will be asked about previous infections. If you say you have already tested positive for HIV, your blood will not be tested for HIV again.
If you say you’ve had a syphilis infection treated in the past, then the lab will know to do the right test to pick up a new infection.
STIs often take a few days or weeks after sex to show up on tests. This is called the window period.
To be sure the results are correct for chlamydia and gonorrhoea, wait 2 weeks after possible exposure to test. If you are treated for either of these, the test can continue to appear ‘positive’ for 6 weeks afterwards, even though the infection has cleared. Do not re-test within this 6 week period unless asked to do so by your service.
To be sure the results are correct for syphilis and HIV, wait 6 weeks after possible exposure to test. If you have symptoms, contact your service for review.
In areas where this is available, you can only order 1 kit every 3 months.
It’s a good idea for everyone who is sexually active to book a test for STIs and HIV once a year, even if this is with just 1 partner. If you are changing partners, it’s advised to test at least every 6 months.
Some people should consider testing more often (around every 3 months), such as:
If your sex life changes, then your testing routine may have to change as well.
You may require a test sooner if you have symptoms.
It’s important to take action as soon as possible if you:
There are some situations where it may be better for you to contact your local sexual health service for STI testing rather than doing it yourself. You should consider doing this if:
You can still order the STI testing kit to do yourself, if available in your area. But you’ll be offered further advice, care and support at a sexual health clinic.
If you’re a gay, bisexual, or other man who has sex with men, then it may be better for you to contact your local sexual health service for STI testing rather than doing it yourself if you:
When requesting a test kit, you need to describe your body parts and partners so the correct kit is sent. If you’re trans or non-binary and would prefer to speak to someone about which test kit is right for you, contact your local sexual health clinic.
It also may be better for you to contact your local sexual health service for STI testing rather than doing it yourself if you:
STI testing at home is not available if you’re under 16. This is to make sure NHS Scotland can address all of your sexual health needs.
Instead, you can contact your local sexual health service for STI testing. The staff can make sure that you get all the information and support you need.
You’ll be asked for your postcode and mobile phone number. This is so NHS Scotland can check that you’re eligible for the service. Then, you’ll need to answer some questions about your body and who you have sex with so the right kit is sent to you.
Your mobile phone number will be used to communicate with you via text about your test kit and your results.
You may want to check the privacy settings for text messages and voicemail on your phone so these do not display without your consent. You may find these links helpful:
You may be given more information or links to local services if you need them.
If you’re under 18, staff at your local clinic may phone or text you to make sure you’re not at risk of serious harm before the STI test kit is posted.
You choose which kit you want to order. You can also request to be sent free condoms.
Complete your details with your name and the address you’d like your kit to be delivered to.
Your test kit will be posted, free of charge to your home or you can ask for it to be sent to an alternative address. You may be able to opt to pick it up at your local sexual health clinic.
You’ll be asked questions about your ethnicity and if you have any disability. This helps NHS Scotland make sure the service is accessible to everyone. You don’t have to answer these if you don’t want to.
Finally, click ‘confirm my order’.
There are only a limited number of testing kits available each day. If there are no more available when you try to order, please try again the next morning.
The service is not yet available in all areas.
When you receive your kit it’ll contain either swabs or urine tests, or both. All of these test for 2 of the most common infections: chlamydia and gonorrhoea.
The test kit you’re sent will be based on your answers to the questions about your body and the people you have sex with.
The testing kit has instructions on how to take the samples.
You’ll need to take some time to do your own blood test. It takes a bit longer than having your blood taken in the clinic.
The lancet you use to prick your finger must be disposed of into a rubbish bin. They should not be returned with your samples to the lab.
Some kits can be handed in to a local GP practices and others are to be posted back via Royal Mail. Follow the instructions that came with your kit so you know what to do.
Your samples will go directly to the laboratory.
Bin the finger pricks and anything else with blood on it, like plasters, that you used to take the samples. These must not be returned to the lab or the sample may not be processed.
Return the testing kit as soon as possible after receiving it. Remember to ensure you test after the window period. This is 2 weeks after sex for chlamydia and gonorrhoea and 6 weeks after sex for syphilis and HIV.
If the test kit does not reach the lab within a week, the tests may not be processed.
If you have a kit that you have not returned yet, do not order another kit. You should contact your local sexual health service by phone to discuss what to do.
Your results will be sent to you by text or you’ll be given a number to phone to get your results.
Your results are usually available within 7 to 14 days of receipt. If your results are taking longer than 14 days, phone your local sexual health clinic.
One of the health advisors at your local sexual health service will usually contact you to arrange treatment. You might get a text to let you know to contact the service or they may phone you.
All the infections tested for can be treated through your local sexual health clinic. Staff will explain what you need to do to get the treatment that you need.