Tribal Health Consortium launches HIV self-testing program

A new HIV self-testing program has been launched by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. HIV self-testing kits will be made available via ANTHC’s sexual and holistic wellness website, www.iknowmine.org.

HIV refers to the human immunodeficiency virus, which weakens a person’s immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. There is no effective cure for HIV, but the virus can be controlled with proper medical care.

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, is the late stage of HIV infection that occurs when the body’s immune system is badly damaged by the virus.

The self-testing kits are to fill the service gap for residents of rural Alaska, where access to HIV testing is limited and there may be concerns about privacy and confidentiality. This new service complements self-testing already available for other sexually transmitted infections.

These kits are available statewide to anyone with an Alaska mailing address and at no cost to the end users. The program was launched in partnership with the state of Alaska in observance of National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on March 20.

The HIV self-testing kits use the OraQuick rapid-test method which allows users to test discreetly and privately. Users are linked with a nurse case manager when they order a kit, to ensure that individuals get the support needed to accurately use and interpret the test, how to follow up with results and to answer questions about the kit, HIV and other STIs.

“The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted access to routine health care services such as HIV and STD screenings for many Alaskans,” said Susan A. Jones, HIV/STD program manager for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. The kits are federally funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s HIV prevention funds.