BETHEL — An Alaska Native health entity is providing free, at-home test kits to detect sexually transmitted infections in an effort to provide more access to the tests and reduce stigma for people who want to be tested.
The point of the effort is to make it easier and more discreet for people to detect and treat the infections, Hanna Warren, an infection prevention manager with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, told KYUK Public Media.
Testing is important because Alaska has the highest U.S. rate of chlamydia and nation’s second-highest rate of gonorrhea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The self-swab tests will allow people on their own to detect the conditions plus trichomoniasis, all of which are curable, Warren said. The STI kits are available at iwantthekit.org. The consortium also offers a separate free test to detect HIV, available through iknowmine.org.
In the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta area of Southwest Alaska, the only way to get tested in a village previously was by a community health aide at a local clinic who people getting tested probably knew. People can also go to the hub community of Bethel for a test, but the chances of running into someone they know there are also high.
“It might be nerve-wracking to go to somebody you know who’s a local health aide or local nurse — maybe they’re your cousin, your auntie, your uncle, maybe your mom, your dad, sister, brother, uncle, or even grandma — and to ask them for an HIV or STI test,” said Warren.
The consortium will offer the self-swab tests to anyone with an Alaska address or using an Alaska post office box. Program partners are the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and Johns Hopkins University.
The consortium will connect people who test positive with health care professionals, Warren said.
Sexually active people over the age of 13 should get tested about once every three months, she said.