Emory offering free HIV test kits

Emory University will supply one million HIV self-test kits to people across the country, after the university’s Together TakeMeHome (TTMH) initiative secured $41.5 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to fund the five-year TTMH plan. 

The Emory University-led collaborative project was previously awarded $8.3 million for the first of the five-year CDC initiative, according to a news release.

TTMH will be the largest nationwide mailed HIV self-testing program to date, according to Emory officials.

According to CDC data from 2020, the southern region of the United States has 51 percent of the country’s HIV/AIDS diagnoses, and Georgia has the second highest rate of new cases in the country – behind only Washington D.C. Data from Georgia Department of Public Health states that DeKalb County had the second highest number of HIV diagnoses (278) and people living with HIV (9,974) in 2020, behind Fulton County (481 and 16,377).

Officials said TTMH solves barriers presented by HIV testing such as stigma, privacy concerns, costs, and lack of access to HIV clinics by offering free HIV self-tests with discrete mail delivery and ordering, and by offering tests to anyone in any state – including Puerto Rico.

“Multiple studies have demonstrated the value of self-testing for increasing the frequency of HIV testing, identifying new diagnoses, and reaching people who reported that they have never previously tested for HIV. Scaling up TTMH to one million tests can have a resounding impact on HIV prevention efforts in the U.S., but its success will rely heavily on collaborative efforts,” the news release states.

“HIV self-testing is a key innovation that supports the national goal to diagnose all people with HIV as early as possible,” said Robyn Neblett Fanfair, acting director of CDC’s Division of HIV Prevention. “Evidence demonstrates high demand for HIV-self tests — particularly among people who have never previously tested for HIV and populations that are not equitably reached by HIV testing, effective treatment and prevention tools.”

Partners listed include program creator Building Healthy Online Communities, technical partner Signal Group, community engagement and public health leaders NASTAD, and production lead OraSure Technologies.

Emory University officials said they will evaluate the program by assessing who used the tests, how many new diagnoses were made, and how many of those who tested positive began HIV treatment or pre-exposure prophylaxis. The program will be monitored and evaluated with data from multiple sources, including order information, web traffic/referral tracking, surveys and qualitative interviews.

Emory officials said they conducted a successful pilot of the program from March 2020 – March 2021 when 4,904 test kits were distributed. Advertising will be completed through dating apps, public health campaigns, in clinic advertising, doctor recommendations, and through other channels; distribution will begin by 2023, according to the news release.

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