CDC Awards Funding to Assist in Improvement of HIV Testing, Awareness

Program will start to distribute a free HIV self-test to people who enroll by early 2023.

A collaborative project led by Emory University has been awarded $8.3 million in the first of a 5-year CDC award to implement Together TakeMeHome (TTMH), a national HIV self-testing program designed to increase awareness and diagnoses of HIV infections in the United States, according to an Emory University press release.

Although HIV testing has been a proven strategy for HIV prevention and the first step in the continuum of care, there are still too many people who are not aware of their HIV status. Using TTMH will help to address the common barriers to getting tested, such as stigma, privacy concerns, cost, and lack of access to HIV clinics by offering free self-tests through mail delivery, according to the program leaders.

“Testing is a critical entry point for HIV prevention and treatment services, especially for people most affected by HIV,” said Travis Sanchez, MD, professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and executive director for the program. “Together TakeMeHome leverages proven HIV prevention strategies by allowing people to get tests delivered directly to their doorsteps and gives people who otherwise might not have tested an opportunity to know their status.”

TTMH will start to distribute a free HIV self-test to people who enroll through its website by early 2023, with orders being processed through Amazon and mailed in discreet packages to all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Following the distribution, Emory University will evaluate the program by assessing who used the tests, how many new diagnoses were made, and how many began HIV treatment or pre-exposure prophylaxis. The program will continue to be monitored and evaluated with data from multiple sources, including order information, web traffic/referral tracking, surveys, and qualitative interviews.

“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, MD, MPH, and acting director of the CDC’s Division of HIV Prevention, in a press release. “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.”

This program will be the largest nationwide mailed HIV self-testing program to date after the success of the pilot program from 2020-2021. Previous 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 been tested for HIV.

There are several organizations that will help play an important role in the successful implementation of the program, such as Building Healthy Online Communities, Signal Group, NASTAD, OraSure Technologies, and CDC’s Let’s Stop HIVTogether campaign team.

The CDC will be supporting TTMH under award number 1NU62PS924790 with a total amount of the award reaching $41.5 million over 5 years.

REFERENCE

Emory receives CDC award to deliver 1 million rapid HIV self-tests across the country. Emory University. September 20, 2022. Accessed September 22, 2022. https://news.emory.edu/stories/2022/09/hs_together_take_me_home_19_9_20221/story.html