VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — December 1st is World AIDS Day and marks the beginning of Indigenous AIDS Awareness Week (December 1-7), both important opportunities to increase awareness and knowledge about HIV/AIDS, while also combating HIV-related stigma and discrimination. CBRC is choosing these dates to announce the launch of three programs aimed at empowering more people in Canada to know their status.
“Testing is key to HIV prevention efforts, and the recent availability of HIV self-testing kits in Canada has the potential to reach more 2S/LGBTQIA+ people living with undiagnosed HIV and link them to treatment and care, so that they can achieve an undetectable viral load, meaning they cannot pass HIV on to others,” said Brook Biggin, CBRC’s Interim Executive Director. “Through a partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada, dozens of community-based organizations, and queer- and trans-owned businesses, we’ll be providing 15,000 HIV self-test kits to queer and trans folks in Canada, through three programs designed to remove common barriers to testing.”
The three-pronged program launching this month will consist of the following:
- Test Now: CBRC will provide free HIV self-test kits to 2S/LGBTQIA+ folks through a network of dozens of community-based organizations and queer/trans-owned or friendly businesses (e.g., bars, bathhouses and bookstores) across Canada. With low barriers to access, Test Now makes obtaining HIV self-test kits as simple as going to a local community-based organization or trusted business and leaving with as many kits as you need. Note: This program will roll out through December, with more organizations and businesses added to the list as they come onboard. More info: www.cbrc.net/test_now_community_edition
- Test@Home: For those who want further comfort and confidentiality, or who might live outside of urban centres, this program will mail up to four HIV self-test kits, shipped in discreet packaging, to an address of one’s choice for folks to use themselves or share with friends or people in their sexual or social networks. More info: www.cbrc.net/test_at_home
- Medicine Bundle: Designed by and for Two-Spirit and queer Indigenous people, CBRC’s Two-Spirit Team will provide a special Medicine Bundle in what is colonially known as Britisth Columbia. These packages include, various Indigenous medicines (e.g. sage, sweetgrass, tobacco, cedar, lavender, etc.), an HIV self-test kit, and additional sexual health resources. The purpose of this bundle is to bring the sacredness back into sex and give folks access to a holistic approach to one’s sexual health needs. More info: www.cbrc.net/medicinebundle.
Through pilot versions of some of these programs, CBRC has already been able get 8,856 HIV self-test kits into the hands of queer and trans folks in the country.
To further reduce barriers and support access to HIV care or prevention, CBRC will also be offering bilingual virtual peer support by toll-free phone, text or email. “Peer support is a fantastic way for 2S/LGBTQIA+ community-members to access support while navigating challenges relating to their health,” says Alex Hare, a Peer Navigator at CBRC. “Many people within the community don't feel comfortable or are unable to access care at a hospital or clinic; peers present as a friendly, understanding, and knowledgeable option for folks to get linked up with the perspectives and resources that they need.”
This work will take place in collaboration with, and alongside similar efforts by, other pan-Canadian organizations, namely Communities, Alliances & Networks (CAAN), CATIE, and REACH Nexus. Supported by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) in the form of an $8 million investment from the Government of Canada, our four organizations have been collaborating on the implementation of our strategies, in consultation with community-based organizations, service providers, and key populations affected by HIV. The collective strategy will include a diversity of approaches to address the different challenges that individuals and communities may experience when accessing HIV testing – including confidentiality, Internet access, cultural competence, stigma, proximity to in-person services and more.
ABOUT HIV SELF-TEST KITS
HIV self-test kits (available in Canada since November 2020) are similar to existing healthcare provider-administered rapid HIV tests already being used in many parts of Canada. It’s a simple finger prick test that provides results in minutes using a drop of blood, allowing folks the comfort and ease of accessing HIV testing where they want, when they want, and in a private and confidential setting. HIV self-test kits can cost upwards of $35 each, these three new programs will offer them to community members for free.
To see how HIV self-tests work, please visit: www.cbrc.net/self_testing_for_hiv_with_travis.
Community-Based Research Centre promotes the health of people of diverse sexualities and genders through research and intervention development. CBRC’s core pillars community-led research, knowledge exchange, network building, and leadership development position the organization as a thought leader, transforming ideas into actions that make a difference in our communities. CBRC was incorporated in 1999 and is a non-profit charitable organization. Our main office is located in Vancouver, British Columbia; we also have satellite offices located in Edmonton, Toronto, and Halifax.
For interviews, please contact: