Free at-home HIV tests are being offered by the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services Department for those 17 and older. The tests are being promoted ahead of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Sunday but are offered year-round.
Members of the public can order online to have a test delivered to their home in discreet packaging. The test contains an oral swab that gives users results in 20 minutes.
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is meant to serve as a day to increase education and testing and to discuss HIV treatment in the Black community.
“There are a lot of days that promote HIV awareness, but our Black HIV Awareness Day is especially important,” said Stephanie Lilly, the department health educator. “Black, African American men who have sex with other men are our highest-risk population.”
Historically speaking, the Black community has been disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black/African American people represented 42% of HIV cases in 2018, despite being only 13% of the population.
The CDC lists HIV stigma, racism and discrimination, homophobia and the socioeconomic issues associated with poverty as specific challenges faced by the Black community that cause issues in prevention and reporting.
Lilly said the younger Black population is especially susceptible because they weren’t around for the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the ’80s and might not view the topic as seriously.
“We are seeing younger and younger people get diagnosed with HIV,” Lilly said. “Getting the information out there about what HIV is and how it’s transmitted is important. Everyone who is sexually active can be exposed to this virus.”
In addition to at-home testing, the Health Department also offers free in-person HIV testing and curbside pick up for at-home tests at their clinic located at 1005 W. Worley St. People need to call ahead for each to set up a time.