Non-profit providing free HIV self-test kits to gay, bisexual, transgender, 2-spirit and non-binary people
Community-Based Research Centre offering up to 3 kits to eligible participants who complete an online survey
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.
This year’s <a href="https://twitter.com/SexNowSurvey?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SexNowSurvey</a> has more inclusive response options for trans and non-binary participants. We want to hear from you. Tell us about your life by answering questions about your sexual and mental health 👉 <a href="https://t.co/6azVsihjY3">https://t.co/6azVsihjY3</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CanQueer?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#CanQueer</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SexNow2021?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SexNow2021</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TestAtHome?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TestAtHome</a> <a href="https://t.co/G3libuuaHZ">pic.twitter.com/G3libuuaHZ</a>—@CBRCtweets
"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