Data shared by The Guardian has revealed that as many as 12,000 false test kits for sexually transmitted infections have been seized within the UK over the course of four years. The kits test for HIV as well as common infections like Gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis and are providing incorrect diagnoses. These kits are showing a negative result when users are infected, leading to unknowingly spreading diseases, putting themselves and potential partners at risk. 

In light of this issue, we’ve put together a brief guide to help you spot a counterfeit site or test kit. 

Don’t buy from an unknown seller

If a person or a company is selling test kits, you should be able to do some background research on them to determine the validity of the products they have. Look at the rest of their website or what they’re selling to get a sense of whether it is a legitimate option or not. Take a look at the product names too, and any reviews that might be able to determine this for you. If you have any doubt, look elsewhere for your test kit. 

Is the website supervised by a medical professional? 

Using a test kit can be a daunting experience and it may not always be clear what the outcome is or what you should do next. Testing positive for an infection will require treatment and it will be important to verify what you should take and what the dosage should be.

For these reasons, and to ensure kit is legitimate, you should try to determine whether a medical professional accesses the test and is able to provide guidance and treatment. If you cannot determine whether the results are checked and given to you by a doctor, or if aftercare is unclear, it’s safer to avoid this outlet. 

Look for regulatory bodies 

When you’re on the website, you’ll be able to determine whether it’s safe to use by checking if it has been looked into by any regulatory bodies. 

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) logo and inspection report is another thing that will tell you whether you can trust the website or not. The CQC are a public body of the Department of Health and Social Care, regulating health and social care services in England. They ensure that the services are providing care that is high-quality, effective and safe. Does the website explicitly state it is regulated by the CQC? Can you spot a logo to certify this? Without this regulation, you cannot guarantee the service is safe to use.

The General Medical Council (GMC) is the public body that maintains the official register of all medical practitioners in the UK. The GMC was founded in 1858 and it sets and regulates the standards for medical schools in the United Kingdom. If the service you are using does not state that GMC-registered professionals are working with them, checking tests and providing aftercare, you’ll need to do some further research into the doctors, nurses or pharmacists running the website and whether they’re registered with any professional organisation.

If the site also provides treatment for the infection, the site should be registered to sell it. You’ll be able to find a logo that will determine if they are. When you click on the logo, it will take you to the Medicines and Healthcare products regulatory agency and the page will confirm whether that pharmacy is fit to sell medicine. 

Make sure to use secure websites too

Take a look in the search bar to see whether the website you’re using is a secure one or not. A genuine website, that adheres to medical standards, will be secure whereas a website selling fake kits likely will not. A website that is not secure can not only mean your kit isn’t legitimate and the results are potentially fraudulent, but it can also mean the data that you provide to obtain the kit could be compromised.

This could lead to your information being used for purposes that were not agreed to, as well as your payment details being stolen. 

Once you buy the test kit, take a good look at it when it arrives. According to The Guardian, the false test kits have some tell tale signs that confirm they are counterfeit, including instructions that have been printed on a home printer, the kit arriving in a Ziploc or sandwich bag and the lack of a CE safety mark. 

The CE safety mark appear on a number of products that are traded on the single market in the European Economic Area. This mark will indicate if a product is compliant with EU legislation as well as showing that the products have been checked by the manufacturer to meet EU requirements for health, safety or environment. 

As well as getting a test kit online, you can book an appointment with your doctor or use a sexual health or genitourinary clinic (GUM) clinic to be tested for sexually transmitted infections.