British Columbia

Non-profit providing free HIV self-test kits to gay, bisexual, transgender, 2-spirit and non-binary people

The Community-Based Research Center, based in Vancouver, will mail up to three rapid test kits to people who fill out their online sexual and mental health survey. Answers will assist organizations across the country advocating for better health programs and resources.

Community-Based Research Centre offering up to 3 kits to eligible participants who complete an online survey

The Community-Based Research Centre is offering free HIV self-test kits to eligible participants who complete a survey on the organization's website. The one-minute, finger-prick blood test was approved by Health Canada in November. (Community-Based Research Centre)

British Columbians who identify as non-binary, as well as men who identify as gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit or queer, can now receive up to three HIV self-test kits in the mail from a Canadian health advocacy organization.

The non-profit Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC), which is based in Vancouver, is providing the tests free of charge to eligible participants aged 18 and older who complete its online Sex Now 2021 survey.

The survey includes questions about sexual and mental health and is designed to gauge how the pandemic has affected participants and to help organizations across Canada advocate for better programs and public policies. 

Dr. Nathan Lachowsky, research director with the centre, said the fast, anonymous test kits are a way for people to test themselves at home without having to visit a clinic while COVID-19 continues to circulate.

"Research we did last year showed that over half of gay, bi, trans, two-spirit and queer men had delays in sexual health testing from the start of COVID," said Lachowsky on Tuesday during an interview on CBC's The Early Edition.

"Research also shows that over three-quarters of the community are likely to try at-home testing," he added.

Health Canada approved

The finger-prick blood test, which gives results in a minute, is manufactured by Richmond, B.C.-based bioLytical Laboratories and was approved by Health Canada in November. It is the first of its kind in the country.

When the test was approved, it was praised by Canadian experts who were concerned about a decline in the number of people being tested for HIV during the pandemic and worried about a spike in HIV rates when it subsides.

"What we're really interested in doing is getting it out there into the community," said Lachowsky. He said the tests are not usually free, so to be able to receive three is an added benefit of providing helpful health information.

Tests normally cost $34.95 if purchased through the manufacturer online.

Test buddies offer support

Participants can also choose to take part in the organization's buddy program, which connects people taking the test with a peer for support.

"We call them test now buddies," said Lachowsky, adding these buddies can help support people and connect them with whatever resources they might want after their test results.

To receive a kit from CBRC, fill out the survey at the centre's website and opt in to receive one. You will be asked a series of questions that normally take about 30 minutes to answer. Your responses are completely anonymous. 

The survey includes a number of questions about sexual activity, as well as on the impact of substance use and harm reduction when it comes to social, mental and sexual wellbeing.

With files from The Early Edition, The Canadian Press