Self-testing provides an exciting opportunity for public health to complement testing in traditional healthcare settings. Self-testing minimizes barriers associated with clinic-based testing and expands testing to populations who might not seek care in traditional healthcare settings. By reaching more patients, health departments are able to implement clinical and public health interventions that can enhance linkage to care, treatment and partner services and, ultimately, minimize transmission and reduce incident cases.
While self-testing for HIV has been available for a number of years, the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened calls for high quality, diverse testing options that can be obtained and performed outside of a clinic and/or laboratory. There are a number of models of self-testing and self-collection which vary based on where and how a consumer accesses testing (i.e., point of entry). Some points of entry include a healthcare provider, while others do not. These models also vary based on how and by whom samples are collected, how and by whom samples are tested, and how and by whom test results are delivered.
Resources for Implementing Self-Testing
NASTAD collaborated to produce Self-Testing: A Strategy to Improve Access to HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections Testing, a toolkit that examines the various options for self-testing. This toolkit reviews models of self-testing and test technologies that are currently available, highlights the benefits and challenges associated with various models of self-testing and reviews strategies to support health departments that wish to employ self-testing within their own testing and linkage programs. While the toolkit was designed for health department program managers and coordinators, it is also valuable for public health laboratory staff and leadership that may be providing advice, consultation and/or support to their local HIV, Viral Hepatitis and/or STD programs.
The Self-Testing Toolkit also references several examples of public health departments and organizations implementing self-testing tools and strategies. APHL and NASTAD compiled a series of case studies that complement the toolkit and explore the various models utilized by four health departments and one university: