Take-home HIV test kits produce results

Sept. 27, 2021

A public-private partnership that provided free HIV self-test kits directly to men who have sex with men found that the effort improved participants access to testing and other services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.  

Most participants reported they had never tested (36%) or tested more than 1 year ago (56%); approximately 10% reported accessing services including sexually transmitted infection testing and preexposure prophylaxis after using the self-test.

During 2019, approximately 34,800 new HIV infections occurred in the United States, and it is estimated that approximately 80% of HIV transmission occurs from people who either do not know they have an HIV infection or are not receiving regular care. The CDC recommends that people who are disproportionately affected by HIV (including men who have sex with men [MSM]) get tested for HIV at least annually. However, the CDC said, data from multiple sources indicate that these recommendations are not being fully implemented.

That’s where TakeMeHome, a public-private partnership to deliver HIV self-testing kits to people seeking HIV testing in the United States, comes in. It was launched during March 2020 as home care options for testing became increasingly important during the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiation of the program coincided with the national COVID-19 Public Health Emergency declaration, issuance of stay-at-home orders, and other restrictions that led to disruption of traditional HIV testing services.

During March 31, 2020–March 30, 2021, 17 state and local health departments participating in the program allowed residents of their jurisdictions to order test kits. Marketing for TakeMeHome focused on reaching gay, bisexual, and men who have sex with men through messages and embedded links in gay dating applications. During this time, 5,325 kits were mailed to 4,904 people. Sixty-seven percent of participants were cisgender men; 6% were transgender, nonbinary, or genderqueer.

TakeMeHome offers rapid HIV self-tests (OraQuick In-Home HIV Test), paid for by state and local health departments or other partners at no cost to people in participating jurisdictions. The program was developed by Building Healthy Online Communities (BHOC) in partnership with the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD)¶ and Emory University.

Seventeen health jurisdictions supported self-test kit distribution for their residents during the first year of the program (14 for 6–12 months and three for <6 months).

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