Canada

OPH, uOttawa project delivers free HIV self-tests – a first for Canada

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Test-takers are requested to report their results, but they’re not required to do so. Nor do they have to provide any personal information beyond an email and phone number for SMS verification.

“I feel that it gives a little bit more control to people, instead of saying, ‘I have to present to a health care provider who administers a test to me,’ it’s, ‘Here is a test, you want to do it, you do it yourself. We’ll give you all the supports,’” said O’Byrne.

Sixteen days after its July 20 soft launch, nearly 100 tests had been shipped out via GetaKit.ca. While the project leaders will be watching to see how much uptake it gets, the success of the pilot also hinges on who is getting tested.

“If everyone who uses it is not somebody who’s particularly affected by HIV, then it’s not all that successful,” O’Byrne explained. Ideally, the program will provide access to testing to people who need it but were facing barriers, diagnoses to people who were HIV-positive but unaware and linkage through the testing process to care and other resources. Follow that forward, and you get improvements to the health of those living with HIV, and decreased onward transmission of the virus.

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According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, an estimated 14 per cent of the more than 63,000 people living with HIV in Canada at the end of 2016 weren’t aware of their infection.

“It’s a very exciting project for our community,” said Matthew Harding, acting executive director of MAX Ottawa, a non-profit focused on supporting the health of GBT2Q men and other guys who are into guys.

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