Want to reach populations who haven’t tested recently? These kits are the key.
For jurisdictions exploring how to best bridge the gap between at-risk populations and increased HIV testing, Take Me Home, the National Home Testing program developed by Building Healthy Online Communities (BHOC), should be included in your next budget proposal. Available for online order starting in April 2020, this innovative tool helps public health departments securely test folks who might hesitate about walking into a clinic.
BHOC is partnering with NASTAD and Emory University, which recently published eSTAMP, a study that demonstrated the success of home-based HIV self-testing (HIVST) with rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) among men who have sex with men (MSM).
“When prevention recommendations suggest that MSM at high risk for HIV test multiple times per year, it is important that we offer practical options for testing,” said eSTAMP study Principal Investigator Dr. Patrick Sullivan.
Published in 2019, the internet-recruited study evaluated the ability of 2,665 MSM to conduct two HIV RDTs, interpret sample images of test results, and collect a dried blood spot specimen.
This new evidence demonstrates that men who were mailed HIV self-tests tested themselves more frequently, identified significantly more prevalent HIV infections, and shared the study HIV self-test kits with members of their social network, resulting in many more persons becoming aware of their HIV infection.
“We also found that there was no difference in the timeliness of linkage to care for men living with HIV among men who tested themselves compared to men who were tested in a clinical setting,” Dr. Sullivan added.
Take Me Home tests will be available to community members in participating health jurisdictions at TakeMeHome.co and through dating app partners. The platform is designed to be user-friendly and reduce barriers to testing for individuals who aren’t otherwise accessing HIV testing.
“One unique aspect to this project is that any health jurisdiction can participate, and they save time and money by not having to develop their own platform and ordering and delivery process,” said Jen Hecht, co-founder and director of BHOC.
After piloting home test kits, officials in Virginia, Arizona, and New York City found that this process effectively reached individuals who hadn’t tested recently and, in some cases, they succeeded in reaching a higher positivity rate than traditional testing strategies.
Twenty percent of participants from Virginia had never previously tested for HIV and an additional 25% hadn’t tested in at least one year. Positivity rates were reported from Virginia at 1.1% and Arizona at 1.2%. 88% of new positives in Virginia were linked to care within 30 days.
Currently Take Me Home supports HIV rapid oral tests, with STI testing and HIV dried blood spot testing to be added this summer.