Public Health to offer curbside pickup of HIV self-test kits for KFL&A residents

Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington Public Health is offering free HIV self-test kits to area residents 16 years of age or older, as part of a collaboration with GetaKit.

Launched in Ottawa in July 2020, GetaKit studies the feasibility of a mail-out HIV self-testing program, and is led by the University of Ottawa and funded by the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN). Those who choose to participate in the self-testing program will be asked to provide their full name, email address, and phone number to ensure that the study team can follow up on test results.

According to a release from KFL&A Public Health, GetaKit curbside pick-up is a “great option” that provides low-barrier and private HIV testing, which can be “completed in the comfort of your home.”

HIV self-test users will be invited to report their results on a secure website. A substantial consent form on the KFL&A GetaKit registration page includes details on the study, including confidentiality and how to withdraw consent.

Locations for curbside pick-up of the at-home HIV test kit locally include:

  • KFL&A Public Health, Cloyne Office: 14209 Highway 41, Cloyne, Ont.
  • KFL&A Public Health, Kingston Office: 221 Portsmouth Ave., Kingston, Ont.
  • KFL&A Public Health, Napanee Office: 99 Advance Ave., Napanee, Ont.

To obtain a free HIV self-test kit from the designated KFL&A Public Health office locations, register online by visiting getakit.ca/kfla/register.

In response to Kingstonist inquiries, Erin Sills, Communications and Public Relations Specialist at KFL&A Public Health, shared that while submitting a test result is entirely voluntary, GetaKit will send reminders to participants who have not reported a result.

“If you do decide to report your result, GetaKit will link you to programs, such as HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or other HIV prevention services, or to immediate clinical care,” Sills shared. “The participant will receive a message in the GetaKit portal, reminding them to submit their result if it has been a week or several weeks since ordering. The participant will need to submit a result of some kind, i.e., ‘positive’, ‘negative’, ‘prefer not to report’, etc.  to be able to make future kit orders.”

Participants are also required to register for the study in order to receive a test kit, Sills told Kingstonist.

“An important part about the GetaKit initiative is ensuring people are getting the appropriate testing. By registering, and filling out the questionnaire, this helps make sure that the testing being offered is right for you,” she explained. “To be able to order testing from the comfort of your home, we need verification in place to ensure you receive your kit (home delivery), or a confirmation number to present to curbside pick-up, ensuring you have completed the registration.”

According to Public Health, the testing process involves a simple blood sample obtained from a fingertip, which is then analyzed for HIV antibodies using the included testing device. Each kit comes complete with detailed instructions and a contact phone number for any questions or concerns that may arise during testing.

“We think everyone should have the chance to do a simple and safe HIV test. Our partnership with GetaKit reflects our shared commitment to promoting healthier communities and empowering people to take charge of their health,” said Nicole Szumlanski, manager of sexual health at KFL&A Public Health, in a statement.

“By offering free HIV self-test kits at easily accessible locations, we hope to make a meaningful impact on public health in the KFL&A region.”

Over the years, the KFL&A region has experienced some fluctuations in the number of HIV cases, but average annual figures have remained fairly consistent, Public Health noted. In our region, the rates of HIV are lower than the provincial rates. The easy-access curbside service aims to increase HIV and STI testing, the frequency of testing, and the number of people linked to treatment and care — all of which contribute to decreasing HIV transmission.

“GetaKit is a nurse-led research study through the University of Ottawa. The data collected will only be available to the research team, however, KFL&A Public Health has a data sharing agreement with GetaKit,” Sills said in an email to Kingstonist. “Public Health can request information data regarding individuals utilizing this service in our immediate area (catchment area), to ensure priority populations are seeking testing, that they are submitting their results, and that people who are submitting their results being linked to services.”

For more information about the HIV self-test kits, visit kflaph.ca/GetaKit

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