AUGUSTA – The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) is distributing home testing kits on Saturday, June 27 as part of National HIV Testing Day, an annual occasion to encourage people to get an HIV test.
Maine CDC encourages individuals to get tested so they can know their status and understand the many HIV prevention and treatment options available. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC), about 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the United States. Of those, about 1 in 7 people don’t know they are living with HIV.
Overall, more than 1,600 people in Maine are living with HIV, including 29 who were diagnosed in 2019.
U.S. CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime as part of routine health care. People who are considered high risk should be tested more often. Groups at higher risk for HIV include men who have sex with men, people who exchange sex for money, and people who inject drugs.
To support local agencies in continuing to provide HIV testing services during the COVID-19 pandemic, Maine CDC is distributing home HIV testing kits to partners across the state. Maine CDC has partnered with Building Healthy Online Communities (BHOC) to provide the free in-home HIV tests to eligible community members through its TakeMeHome project. The goal is to test and reach the 30 percent of all men who have sex with men who haven’t been tested in the past year through promotion on dating and social networking apps. Maine plans to expand the eligible population after the pilot has completed.
Additionally, Maine CDC funds sites across Maine to provide free HIV testing for higher risk individuals. Local agencies are available to provide HIV education, access to HIV testing for those in need, and referrals to STD testing and other health services.
“The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. Knowing your HIV status gives you powerful information to keep you and others healthy,” said Maine CDC Director Nirav D. Shah. “Maine CDC has partnered with local agencies to provide people throughout Maine with innovative HIV testing options that can be done safely, often at home.”
There is currently one FDA-approved home HIV test, OraQuick. It is available to those 17 and older and provides results within 20 minutes. These tests can be bought at your local store or pharmacy and online. Contact your local clinic to see if you qualify for a reduced cost or free test kit.
There have been many scientific advances that reduce the transmission of HIV for those who know their status. For those who test negative, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is an FDA-approved medication that when taken daily reduces someone’s risk of acquiring HIV by sexual contact by about 99 percent. It also reduces the risk of getting HIV by at least 74 percent among persons who inject drugs. For those who test positive, early initiation of HIV treatment has enabled individuals to live long and healthy lives. People living with HIV who take their HIV medications consistently and correctly each day can have an undetectable HIV viral load and achieve what is called “viral suppression.” Research studies have proven that it is highly unlikely for virally suppressed individuals to sexually transmit HIV.
Visit gettested.cdc.gov to find a testing location near you. Many testing sites remain open and available at this time.
Maine CDC’s HIV prevention program provides funding for under and uninsured individuals at the following locations:
Frannie Peabody Center: (207) 774-6877
Maine Family Planning: (207) 922-3222
Portland Public Health: India Street Health Center: (207) 874-8446
In addition to the sites listed above, these agencies are among the Maine groups supporting National HIV Testing Day:
Health Equity Alliance: (207) 990-3626
Maine Access Points: (207) 370-9445
Wabanaki Health and Wellness: (207) 631-1536