People in the U.S. can now get a free at-home HIV test, thanks to a nationwide program that will distribute a million tests over the next five years. The program, called Together TakeMeHome, has partnered with the popular dating app Grindr to help spread the word to populations most affected by the viral infection.
The Grindr app now has a side menu button that reads "Free HIV Home Test," which will direct users to the Together TakeMeHome website. Grindr will collect no data in the process, the app's developers said in a statement.
Together TakeMeHome distributes tests by mail to residents of all 50 states and Puerto Rico who are at least 17 years old. The tests themselves are OraQuick devices, made by OraSure Technologies and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These tests involve the use of mouth swabs and deliver results in 20 minutes, according to Emory University, one of the project's leaders. People who enroll in the program can order up to two test kits every 90 days.
Clinical studies suggest the tests are highly accurate, according to the FDA — if HIV is present, the tests are expected to accurately detect the virus 92% of the time, and if HIV is not present, the tests give a negative result 99.98% of the time.
The program website provides information about how to use the self-test kits, what to do based on the test result, and how to access other HIV prevention and sexual health services. Trained staff will be available through the program website to provide referrals to HIV prevention and care services, including ways to access pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) — highly effective drugs used to prevent HIV.
(The program's PrEP navigation team can be reached at the phone number 628-899-4662 or at email@example.com.)
"By giving people an easy option to know their HIV status, Together TakeMeHome can help people, particularly those disproportionately affected by HIV, take this first important step in preventing and treating HIV," Dr. Travis Sanchez, a professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and the program's executive director, said in the statement.
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Nicoletta Lanese is the health channel editor at Live Science and was previously a news editor and staff writer at the site. She holds a graduate certificate in science communication from UC Santa Cruz and degrees in neuroscience and dance from the University of Florida. Her work has appeared in The Scientist, Science News, the Mercury News, Mongabay and Stanford Medicine Magazine, among other outlets. Based in NYC, she also remains heavily involved in dance and performs in local choreographers' work.