SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CA. – The County of Santa Clara Public Health Department has launched a new program that provides free HIV home self-test kits mailed to eligible people who request them. The program aims to increase access to HIV testing for those disproportionately impacted by HIV. The program plans to distribute 850 tests in the first year.
State funding of $20,000 from the California Department of Public Health covers the costs of these HIV self-test kits. In addition, for people with health insurance, a new state law requires health plans to cover at-home test kits for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections effective January 1, 2022.
“The most common STD symptom is no symptom at all, so getting tested is one of the most important things an individual can do for their health and the health of their partners,” said Public Health Department STD/HIV Controller and Assistant Health Officer Dr. Sarah Rudman.
Safe, reliable home self-test technology is now available for HIV, as it is for COVID-19. HIV self-test kits aim to reduce HIV testing barriers, empower individuals to learn their status, and reduce the stigma around testing and getting access to treatment.
Persons who live or work in the County, are 17 years of age or older and identify as a member of a population highly impacted by HIV, such as men who have sex with men, LGBTQ+, Hispanic/Latinx, or African American/Black are eligible to receive a self-test kit in the mail.
Here’s how it works:
- Individuals complete an initial, anonymous pre-screening to determine eligibility. The registration is available in both English and Spanish.
- Those who meet eligibility criteria then complete a confidential survey to provide information about demographics, risk factors, name, and mailing address.
- A discreet package arrives in the mail at the person’s address along with additional information and resources.
- One month after receiving a self-test kit, individuals receive a follow-up survey on their experience, need for additional public health services, and a voluntary reporting of their test result.
- Individuals can also opt-in to receive a self-test kit once every three months.
- Individuals who test negative receive follow-up HIV prevention services.
- Individuals who test positive receive additional support from the Public Health Department’s Positive Connections team.
Dr. Sarah Rudman explained, “Young people and adults in Santa Clara County continue to be affected by sexually transmitted infections, and we want everyone who needs an HIV test to get one. The COVID-19 pandemic made it challenging for many communities to see a doctor, but with this program, it’s easy to get a test mailed directly to your home.”
Hispanic/Latinx and African American/Black residents remain disproportionately impacted by HIV. In 2020, these groups accounted for 65 percent of all new HIV diagnoses in Santa Clara County. The County’s STI and HIV Annual Report contains the most recent data.
Since 2014, Santa Clara County has had consistently better success in getting people with HIV early access to medical care compared to the national average. When HIV-positive people learn about their infections early and connect to the necessary medical care early on, they live longer, healthier, and more meaningful lives free from stigma and discrimination.
The Public Health Department also provides free HIV testing at GetTestedSCC.org.