As the COVID-19 pandemic spikes, Minnesotans can access HIV testing at home
St. Paul, MN— Planned Parenthood is offering at-home HIV testing kits for those who qualify, thanks to a grant from the Minnesota Department of Health. December is HIV/AIDS awareness month, a time to highlight the importance of HIV testing and the many advances in treatment.
About 14 percent (or 1 in 7) of people living with HIV in the U.S. are not aware of their status and need testing. The at-home HIV testing kits available through Planned Parenthood are designed to help Minnesotans access health care from the safety of their own home during the COVID-19 pandemic. HIV testing is more crucial this year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt Minnesotans’ access to public health services. Nationally, STIs are skyrocketing as resources, staff, and supplies are used to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Sexual and reproductive health care needs do not pause for a pandemic,” said Sarah Stoesz, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States. “We want to ensure that HIV transmission rates continue to decline in Minnesota; our communities urgently need information, testing and medical care, especially outside of our urban centers. HIV treatment has transformed over the decades and enabled people with HIV to live full and long lives, and the first step to finding treatment is getting tested. We are here to help patients overcome obstacles with at-home testing kits, during the pandemic and beyond.”
The five-year grant from the Minnesota Department of Health offers free at-home HIV testing for men who are having sex with men in Greater Minnesota. Patients can call 1-800-230-PLAN (7526) to learn if they qualify for the at-home HIV tests. Planned Parenthood continues to offer HIV testing for patients in our health centers and also offers testing for all STIs, including at-home testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia. Patients can make a telehealth appointment or schedule an appointment at a Planned Parenthood health center.
While rates of new HIV infections have decreased in recent years, millions are living with a positive HIV diagnosis. As of 2019, 38 million people across the globe are living with HIV/AIDS, including 1.7 million individuals who acquired HIV in 2019.
In Minnesota, males account for 72 percent of all new HIV cases during 2019 and male-to-male sex remains the main risk factor for males of all ages, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Health inequities are also evident in HIV rates with more than half (61 percent) of new HIV cases occurring in communities of color. In Greater Minnesota, there were 53 newly diagnosed HIV cases in 33 counties.
When taken as prescribed, HIV treatment can decrease the "HIV viral load," the amount of HIV present in a person's blood, to an undetectable level. Being undetectable prevents HIV from progressing and allows people to live long and healthy lives. It also protects the health of their sexual partners because people cannot pass HIV through sex when they have undetectable levels of HIV.
Planned Parenthood North Central States and its subsidiary organizations provide, promote, and protect reproductive and sexual health through high-quality care, education and advocacy. A member of America’s most trusted reproductive health care provider, our affiliate is proud to support and operate 29 health centers across our five-state region (Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota). Each year, we provide health care to nearly 115,000 people and health education to more than 99,000 people in our region.