Stay Connected. Stay Healthy: Greater Than AIDS/Walgreens Partnership Meets Community HIV Needs During COVID-19

Content From: Tina Hoff, Senior Vice President and Director, Social Impact Media at Kaiser Family Foundation Published: November 23, 20212 min read

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SCSH North Idaho AIDS Coalition

National partnership pivots to help bridge the gap in HIV testing services during the pandemic

Just ahead of the 25th anniversary of National HIV Testing Day in June 2020, KFFExit Disclaimer, through its Greater Than AIDSExit Disclaimer public information initiative, and WalgreensExit Disclaimer, together with OraSure Technologies, Inc.Exit Disclaimer launched a new HIV self-test donation program to support expanded testing options in high-need areas.

The announcement came at a critical time as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was reporting significant declines (50-70%) in HIV testing brought about by COVID-19.1 Earlier that spring, the CDC had issued Dear Colleague letters encouraging the expanded use of HIV self-tests generally, as well as for PrEP clients.2,3

Between 2020 and 2021, 294 health agencies and community-based organizations distributed 15,300 of the FDA-approved self-administered HIV tests at no cost to clients in 39 states through the Greater Than AIDS/Walgreens program.

“The donation helped us bridge the gap in HIV testing during COVID,” said Gwendolyn Ellis-Wilson, director of operations at Minority AIDS Support Services Inc. in Newport News, Va. “We were able to meet the needs of individuals who told us they wouldn’t have gotten tested if self-testing wasn’t available.”

Almost two thirds (63%) of the participating organizations had not previously been offered an HIV self-test option. Most said they planned to continue even as COVID-19 restrictions subsided.

“The donation pushed us to develop our own HIV self-test system and procedures,” said Danny Harris, outreach and prevention supervisor at Positive Connections in Little Rock, Ark. “It has proven to open

KFF Bar Chart

In follow-up questionnaires, testing partners said receiving the donated HIV self-tests allowed their organizations to continue to offer and expand HIV testing services during the pandemic. Many also reported that the offering allowed them to reach a wider audience and broaden discussions about HIV beyond testing to include both PrEP and treatment as prevention.

The HIV-self test donations were provided as part of the Greater Than AIDS / Walgreens National HIV Community PartnershipExit Disclaimer, a program that brings community partners into Walgreens stores on National HIV Testing Day to provide FREE HIV tests. More than 57,000+ rapid HIV tests have been administered since 2011. The in-store program was paused in 2020 due to COVID-19. KFF and Walgreens plan to resume in-store testing on June 27, 2022.

The unique public-private partnership extends the reach of testing and informational resources in non-traditional settings, normalizes conversations about HIV, and reaches populations most affected by HIV with the latest advances in prevention and treatment.

For more information about the partnership, including how to get involved, please email community@kff.org.

References:

[1] CDC, 2020. National HIV Testing Day 2020 Partner Webinar (slide 17).
[2] CDC, 2020. Dear Colleague: HIV Self-Testing Guidance.
[3] CDC, 2020. Dear Colleague: PrEP During COVID-19.