Innovative HIV Home Testing Program Expands to New States

By Kyle Taylor June 29, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
June 29, 2020

CONTACT:
Jen Hecht, jhecht@sfaf.org

Innovative HIV Home Testing Program Expands to New States

SAN FRANCISCO Saturday, June 27 is National HIV Testing Day and registering for an at-home test kit takes only a few minutes with TakeMeHome.co, an HIV-testing program that delivers free kits directly to doorsteps.

What began as a tool to bring the HIV testing experience into the 21st century took on a greater sense of urgency as the COVID-19 outbreak caused a shift in government resources, cutting back sexual health services in clinics and public health departments.

“It’s tragic that we haven’t yet been able to send a test to everyone who needs one for Coronavirus in this country,” said Jen Hecht, co-founder of Building Healthy Online Communities (BHOC), a coalition of public health organizations working closely with dating apps to prevent new HIV and STD infections. “We have all the tools we need to do that for HIV, and we should use them.”

“We want to make getting a test even easier than ordering pizza, and make it free,” Hecht added.

To request a kit, users log onto TakeMeHome.co, fill out a brief eligibility questionnaire, and enter an address where they want the kit to be sent. Eligible users will be sent an unmarked package containing an oral swab, as well as resources and instructions on what to do if they find out they’re HIV-positive. Those users who are not eligible will be given information on where to get a free test in a clinic near them, and where to get medication that prevents new infections as well as condoms.

Created by BHOC and NASTAD, the program aims to close a persistent gap in HIV prevention: a 2019 nationwide survey showed that 22% of men who have sex with men (MSM) who used smartphone apps had never been tested for HIV.

Since launching the pilot program in March, several states have already requested more test kits to meet high demands. An additional five states and seven counties have registered for the expanded second phase, which intends to add STI testing to kits this summer.

“Self-testing is an important tool to end the HIV epidemic, and it is crucial that more people have access to a self-testing mechanism now when many are employing social distancing strategies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Stephen Lee, NASTAD’s Executive Director. “We are excited about the continued work with BHOC and public health organizations to facilitate getting HIV test kits into the homes and hands of persons whom would be less likely to test in community or clinic-based settings.”

“We need to make it as easy as possible to get free tests to the MSM who need them,” said Patrick Sullivan, professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public and a partner of TakeMeHome. “CDC recommends that MSM at high risk get tested for HIV multiple times each year.”

For health departments interested in participating, visit BHOCpartners.org/home-testing or contact Jen Hecht (jhecht@sfaf.org) for more information. 

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