Free HIV Self-Test Kits offered to Red Deerians
This fall, Turning Point Society will be providing free INSTI HIV Self-Test kits to Red Deer citizens through the Test Now Community Distribution Project, a pilot program that aims to evaluate the efficacy and uptake of new HIV testing technologies.
The project will also serve as an opportunity to provide gay, bisexual, trans, Two-Spirit, and queer (GBT2Q) men and non-binary people – those who often experience barriers when it comes to testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBI)—with a low barrier option for their HIV testing needs.
“Considering this population makes up more than 50% of new HIV infections reported in Canada each year, access to these take-home test kits is going to be a game-changer for our clients and the community,” said Mitchell Danser, team lead of Turning Point’s new Central Alberta Men’s Outreach (CAMO) program.
According to Danser, there is a wide range of factors that create barriers to HIV testing for this population in Central Alberta, including external and internalized stigma surrounding sexual health and identity, limited mobility and proximity to testing facilities, extended wait periods for testing results, and a lack of individual and societal education.
“These kits provide greater testing anonymity and substantially improve accessibility for those facing these and other barriers,” said Danser. “I’m confident we’ll see an uptake in testing now that we’re able to distribute these take-home kits.”
Similar to the “point of care” test, the INSTI HIV Self-Test kit is a rapid, single-use device that detects HIV antibodies in minutes using a drop of blood. Through the Test Now Community Distribution Project, getting a kit will be as simple as connecting with one of Turning Point’s CAMO outreach workers and answering a few (optional) questions.
Once a test is completed, no matter what the result is, participants can contact us for information, support, and referrals for things like confirmatory HIV testing (if your result is reactive) or HIV PrEP.
The Test Now Community Distribution Project is an initiative of Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC), which promotes the health of GBT2Q Individuals through research and intervention development.
“Although HIV self-testing technology is not for everyone, it has the potential to reach those who experience barriers within a traditional healthcare setting where they may be subject to intrusive or discriminatory behaviour or practices,” says Chris Draenos, CBRC’s Test Now Research Manager.
Estimates suggest that there are over 8,000 people living with HIV in Canada who are not aware of their status (13% of people living with HIV) and don’t have access to treatment.
With the introduction of HIV self-testing, Canadians now have a new option to help manage their sexual health on their own terms.
“These are people who are going under the radar and we need to empower them to take their health into their own hands and encourage people to get tested for HIV, know their status, and get linked to care and treatment,” said Draenos.
All kits are provided by CBRC with the support of REACH Nexus.
Those interested in receiving a free HIV self-test kit while quantities last are encouraged to drop by Turning Point’s office or email firstname.lastname@example.org.