Instead of swinging by Nashville CARES for a free HIV test last month, about 50 people took advantage of a new service the organization is providing in response to the coronavirus pandemic and ‘safer at home’ orders — free at-home HIV tests delivered to your door.
In partnership with the Tennessee Department of Health, Nashville CARES has quickly evolved their services to offer OraQuick in-home HIV test kits available for free and delivered for free simply by calling Nashville CARES at (615) 761-4474.
The test is painless and results come back in 20 minutes. But that doesn’t mean self-testers have to go it alone. Kits arrive in the mail with instructions that prompt them to connect with a CARES staff member via phone or video conference.
That way, CARES still helps walk testers through the process and stay on the line to help verify the test result and explain available treatment or risk-reduction options, such as the daily prescription TRUVADA for PrEP®.
Lisa Binkley, CARES associate director of prevention and education, said at least one person received a positive result in the first six weeks of the new program.
“We are so fortunate to have access to these HIV test kits, because had we not, this individual might have gone several months before having a testing opportunity,” Binkley said. “Having untreated HIV is not where a person needs to be medically in the middle of a deadly pandemic. I truly believe the ability to provide these tests will most assuredly save lives.”
Living with HIV does not necessarily put a person at a higher risk for COVID-19.
Debbie Barnett, director of marketing and communications for Nashville CARES, said people whose viral load is undetectable, have an adequate CD4 T-cell count, and are taking precautions such as washing hands and wearing a mask in public are at about the same risk for contracting COVID-19 as the general population.
“We are seeing clients who are struggling with concerns over having an autoimmune disease during a viral pandemic, and we are here to help,” Barnett said.
This article has been supported by a grant from the Facebook Journalism Project for COVID-19 coverage.