SELPHI - A study of free self-tests for HIV in England & Wales

HIV tests are already free at any sexual health clinic or GP surgery. But sometimes it is difficult to find time to visit a clinic or a GP.

In this study (SELPHI), we are looking at the option of HIV self-testing – testing that you do yourself. We will compare getting a free HIV self-test to not getting a test. We want to see if providing free HIV self-tests increases early diagnosis of HIV.

The results of the study will help the NHS decide if self-tests for HIV should be available for free.

If you decide to join this study you will have a better than 50% chance of getting one or more free HIV self-tests.

Frequently asked questions

SELPHI stands for “An HIV Self-testing public health intervention.”

SELPHI is trying to find out if offering free self-testing can help people get diagnosed with HIV more quickly. We are enrolling gay and other men who have sex with men (MSM), and this includes both MSM (not trans) and trans MSM. In addition, we want to include trans women who have sex with men whose experiences are likely to be very different from MSM.

The results from SELPHI will help the NHS decide if it should provide free HIV self-testing. It will look at the cost as well as benefits of self-testing when deciding this.

This is because these groups have a higher risk for HIV than the general population. That said, there is very little information on HIV among trans men and transwomen in this country.

We estimate that most new HIV infections come from people who don’t know they have the virus. Research shows that on average only about half of gay men with HIV in the UK are diagnosed within 2 years of becoming positive. During this time, they may expose several partners to HIV without realising it. If people are tested more frequently it might shorten the time that people don’t know they have HIV. This should reduce the number of new infections and improve the health of those who get HIV.

Some participants will not get any free self-test kits. This is because we need to compare a group that receive a test with a group that do not to see if offering self-tests shortens the length of time that people don’t know they have the virus. The information given to us by all SELPHI participants is vital, whether or not they get any self-test kits.

People will be put in to different groups by chance, by a process called randomisation. This is a bit like tossing a coin.


  • 60% of participants will receive at least one free HIV self-test kit. Some participants will be offered more free kits at a later date.
  • 40% of participants will not receive a free HIV self-test kit. Participants will be given advice on how to access testing elsewhere.

It involves several short (5-10 minute) surveys. All surveys are answered online - by phone, tablet or computer. The surveys ask about HIV and STI testing. They also ask about your sex life. People getting self-tests will have additional surveys.

Yes, you can still visit your sexual health clinic at any time. Actually, it is very important that you continue to do this if you need to, including having regular STI tests.

Some people will test HIV positive. Sometimes this might be a false positive (i.e. a test error). Most often it will mean that you are HIV positive.

If you get a positive result you should arrange to visit a clinic or GP to get your result confirmed. All positive results need to be confirmed by a laboratory test. You can also phone for support to interpret the results or if you are worried about being HIV positive.

It can be a shock to get a positive result, so you will need support. The earlier you find out, the better this is for your health. Everyone in the UK has free access to monitoring and treatment for HIV, even if they are not a resident. HIV treatment is very effective and life expectancy is now close to life expectancy for people who are HIV negative.

Should you want support, to speak to someone about your HIV care or help finding a nearby clinic, THT Direct runs a hotline which you can access from 10 am – 8 pm Monday to Friday. The number is 0808 802 1221 or you can visit the THT Direct webpage.

If you require support outside of these times or if you require urgent support, you can call the NHS urgent and emergency care line by dialling 111 on your phone. This service is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

SELPHI will enrol about 10,000 participants.

SELPHI will last around 2-3 years. We hope that 10,000 participants will have joined by mid- or late-2017. Final results will be available by early 2020.

No. The study does not pay people to take part.

Yes, as with all research, it is your choice to take part. You can leave SELPHI if you change your mind. At any time, you can stop completing surveys, stop receiving test kits (if you were going to receive any) or unsubscribe from all messages about SELPHI.

SELPHI is run by a number of groups with lots of experience in HIV research. You can read all about the team here. We have also had input from various community based organisations:

  • HIVi-Base
  • SELPHI Community Advisory Board (CAB) which is made up of independent community members

SELPHI is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). BioSURE, the manufacturer of the self-test kits, is providing kits for SELPHI at a reduced price. BioSURE has no input into the design of SELPHI or the analysis and presentation of the results.

All of your information will be stored on a secure database and will be treated confidentially. Your personal details (surname and date of birth) will be used to match up our data with data held about you on national database at Public Health England. The answers you give to the surveys will not be linked in any way to your personal information.

If you are offered a free self-test kit, your address will only be used to send you your test kit and not for any other purpose.

Further information

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