People living in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark can now check their HIV status – and get themselves checked for the three other most common STIs – using a new postal testing kit.

The testing for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV is free of charge to people living in the two south London areas, and can be done in confidence – you don’t even need to give your name or any personal details when sending the kit back for testing in the lab.

SH:24, which is funded by Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity, is a partnership between the NHS and Lambeth and Southwark councils and the Design Council, and brings together public health experts, doctors, other healthcare professionals, designers and software developers. Lambeth and Southwark have some of the highest rates of acute STIs nationwide and large populations of young people, men who have sex with men (MSM) and black and minority communities – all of whom are at increased risk.

Dr Ruth Wallis, Director of Public Health for Lambeth and Southwark, said: ‘SH:24 aims to improve access to sexual health services for the population as a whole, while focusing on high-risk and hard-to-reach groups. Early diagnosis means early treatment and reduces the risk of passing on the infection.’

SH:24’s Programme Director, Dr Gillian Holdsworth, added: ‘Many people who want or need a test don’t get tested for a number of reasons – inconvenience, embarrassment about going to a clinic, or not realising they’re at risk. SH:24 aims to increase efficiency and improve the experience for users and radically improve sexual health outcomes. It’s available 24 hours a day, with confidentiality and results by text within a week guaranteed.’

Anyone testing positive for chlamydia, gonorrhoea or syphilis will be informed by text and advised to visit a local clinic with an option to text back any questions for further advice. If someone tests positive for HIV, they will receive a text message informing them that a clinician will call them to discuss their results.

Oliver Smith, Director of Strategy & Innovation at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, said: ‘As a catalyst for innovation in healthcare, we support projects that take risks and test new ways of tackling very real health challenges. SH:24 captures well what we think innovation in healthcare is about: working in partnership to develop ideas that can enhance NHS provision and offer people easier ways of accessing health services.’

For more information, and to order a kit, please visit the SH:24 website.