HIV-test2A home kit to test for HIV has been launched across England after new figures reveal that more than 18,000 people in the UK don't know that they carry the infection. The free kit is available to be ordered online, with samples then being sent to a lab for testing.

It is thought that around 18,100 people across Britain are unaware that they have the HIV infection. This can be spread through blood or sexual fluids, meaning they could be passing it onto on to others without knowing.

Public Health England (PHE) is urging people to check their HIV status, especially as around four in ten people in the UK receive a late diagnosis of the disease. This means that treatment may not be as effective and that there is a greater risk of it spreading.

While HIV rates are falling - figures show that around 103,700 people in the UK had HIV during 2014 - it is still a problem and cases are increasing in a number of communities across the country.

It is estimated that around 6,500 men who have sex with men (MSM) don't know they have the disease, while some 3,900 men and women from black African communities are also unaware.

In 2014, around 40 per cent of people diagnosed with HIV received their diagnosis when the infection had reached a late stage.

Professor Kevin Fenton, at PHE, said: I would encourage all those at higher risk of HIV, such as men who have sex with men or people from black African communities, to seriously consider testing, especially as they are now able to order a home sampling kit free online."

The test simply requires a finger-prick blood test, which is then sent off for analysis. People are contacted three to five days later with the results. If the test suggests that a person is HIV-positive, they will be asked to undergo a confirmatory check at a sexual health clinic.

You can get a free test until January 1st 2016, with PHE and the government urging people to test themselves. Following this date, local authorities will each individually decide on funding for the kits.