DEERFIELD, Ill.— With in-person health services limited due to COVID-19, Greater Than AIDS, a public information initiative of KFF, and Walgreens announced Thursday a new program to provide 10,000 OraQuick In-Home HIV Test kits to support expanded testing options in high-need areas. Local health agencies and community-based organizations will distribute the FDA-approved, self-administered tests at no cost to those unable to get tested in person.
Just ahead of the 25th anniversary of National HIV Testing Day (June 27), the announcement comes at a critical time with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimating that HIV testing is down 50 to 70% since February 1.
“As COVID-19 continues, we are seeing how it threatens other health responses,” said Tina Hoff, a senior vice president at KFF, which directs Greater Than AIDS. “This program aims to support frontline HIV service organizations as they transition to new ways of providing care during these difficult times.”
Walgreens is providing a donation for the purchase of 9,000 OraQuick HIV test kits with an additional 1,000 donated by OraSure Technologies, Inc., the manufacturer of the rapid oral swab HIV self-tests. KFF, through Greater Than AIDS, is managing distribution of the test kits to community partners.
“While HIV testing efforts may look different than in years past, we’re honored to collaborate with Greater Than AIDS in our 10th year of working together to highlight the critical role testing plays in prevention and care,” said Luke Sauter, vice president, specialty pharmacy, Walgreens. “Walgreens continues to advocate for HIV testing, education and care in the communities we serve with over 3,000 HIV-trained specialists in our stores.”
A record 325+ community partners, including health departments and HIV service organizations, in 215 cities in 47 states had signed on to provide free HIV testing in Walgreens stores across the country as part of the 2020 Greater Than AIDS/Walgreens National HIV Community Partnership when the in-store activation was put on hold due to COVID-19. These community partners — including those in the 48 counties in the Federal Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America — will be prioritized to receive the free HIV self-tests through this program.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued new information about the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test to support wider use, and a Dear Colleague Letter from the CDC in May encourages offering HIV self-testing to PrEP clients during COVID-19. Quarterly HIV testing is required as part of the prescribing protocols for PrEP, the HIV prevention pill.
“When it comes to eradicating HIV, the first step is to know your HIV status. On this year’s National HIV Testing Day, we are honored to work with Greater Than AIDS and Walgreens to provide OraQuick In-Home HIV Tests to allow testing at home or wherever is convenient,” said Stephen Tang, president and chief executive officer of OraSure Technologies. “COVID-19 has interrupted so much of ‘normal’ life. Let’s make sure it doesn’t halt the fight against HIV/AIDS.”
Greater Than AIDS and Walgreens will also provide community partners with informational materials and digital promotions to support awareness and outreach.