The Maryland Department of Health (MDH) marked World AIDS Day today by encouraging Marylanders to take advantage of the HIV home-testing kits offered through the Virginia and Maryland Home HIV Testing Program. To help address a decline in individuals seeking HIV testing and care during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program now makes HIV home-testing kits available to all Maryland residents who request them for free.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic began, people in need stopped getting tested for HIV,” said MDH Secretary Robert R. Neall. “By partnering with the Virginia Department of Health to expand the Virginia and Maryland Home HIV Testing Program, we have been able to make more free HIV home-testing kits available to those who need them during this challenging time.”
In addition to HIV home-testing kits, the program connects participants with information on HIV and care resources. It also provides an opportunity to increase awareness of HIV for people who may not otherwise seek testing or care.
HIV testing in Maryland dropped by more than 31 percent in July 2020 when compared to July 2019 according to MDH’s Center for HIV Surveillance, Epidemiology and Evaluation (CHSEE). This trend is highlighted in CHSEE statistics showing that overall lab testing from January through October 2020 was 25 percent lower than expected based on a five-year average. Additionally, 29 percent fewer new cases were added to the HIV registry than expected during the period.
Using the Virginia and Maryland Home HIV Testing Program’s confidential online portal— which is also available in Spanish— any Maryland resident can request an OraQuick brand rapid HIV test kit to be delivered to their home completely free of charge. Every 90 days, participants may request a new test package that includes one test kit and instructions for accessing health and social services, which participants are encouraged to use whether their test result is negative or positive
The program supports strategic community health goals that include diagnosing at least 90 percent of Maryland residents living with HIV and placing 90 percent of those individuals in HIV care with the help of new approaches to care, including non-clinical HIV screening. The initiative also expands messaging and links patients to resources that can help them initiate or sustain prescriptions for HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, otherwise known as “PrEP.”
“As we continue to deal with COVID-19 in Maryland, it is vitally important that people take care of all aspects of their health,” said Acting MDH Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services Dr. Jinlene Chan. “Home testing for HIV is effective, free, and available to anyone in Maryland who needs it. We encourage everyone who needs this free program to take advantage of it.”