Health centers play an important role in Ending the HIV Epidemic by screening patients for risk and encouraging HIV testing. While the COVID-19 public health emergency has made it more difficult to access traditional places where HIV testing is provided, including health centers, HIV screening continues to be essential to reducing new HIV infections and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV.
CDC has published guidance about HIV self-testing programs using an FDA-approved home test as a way to supplement ongoing HIV prevention efforts. In alignment with this guidance, health centers may purchase and provide HIV self-test kits to health center patients as an element of providing primary health care services to their patients.
Health centers that choose to make HIV self-test kits available to their patients should also ensure that systems are in place to provide the full range of enabling services including patient education, case management, and care coordination. In addition, for patients who report positive HIV self-test results, the health center should provide information and health education regarding follow-up confirmatory testing as well as linkage to treatment and care according to HIV care guidelines. Health centers must also follow appropriate state and local health department HIV surveillance program reporting requirements. Finally, if health centers opt to disseminate HIV self-test kits as part of their existing HIV prevention activities, they should incorporate these activities into Uniform Data System reporting, as appropriate.
Self-testing for HIV can be an effective supplemental resource and tool for HIV prevention and improved health during the current COVID-19 public health emergency.