A new national HIV research program is underway, with self-testing kits now available in Fort St. John.
The Fort St. John Women’s Resource Society is a distribution site for the I’m Ready to Know program, which seeks to breach barriers to testing by offering 50,000 kits to all Canadians.
The self-testing kits arrived here on Wednesday, and WRS Executive Director Amanda Trotter says the kits will be a huge help in furthering the society's community outreach goals.
“It’s a game changer, there’s so much stigma attached to HIV. People will be able to do this privately in their own homes,” said Trotter. “The other thing that’s really important is the backup and support that comes along with it.”
Self-testing for HIV is new to Canada, with the first tests approved last year. Roughly 14% of Canadians living with HIV do not know their status.
Data for the Peace is virtually non-existent, as Fort St. John lost its only STI testing clinic years ago, making testing more difficult to access locally.
Up to three self-testing kits can be ordered online at no charge and delivered by mail through the research program. Residents can also welcome to pick up a kit at the society or have it shipped there, and staff can assist in administering it.
An phone app can also be downloaded, offering counselling services and more. The national program will collect data from participants about their experiences with testing and care, behaviours, and risk levels.
Trotter said that HIV was once a death sentence for many, but is no longer the case, with modern medicine offering better outcomes and quality of life.
“We’re hoping this will be the start of a turnaround where people will have easy access to HIV testing and getting instant results, and the support they need afterwards,” said Trotter.
Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News