New York State offering HIV self-testing kits

State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald announced an HIV self-test giveaway campaign through early August.
State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald announced an HIV self-test giveaway campaign through early August.
New York State Department of Health

The New York State Department of Health (DOH) is distributing free HIV tests through August 6 as part of an effort to showcase the importance of self-testing and improve awareness among individuals about their HIV status.

The campaign was launched to coincide with HIV Testing Day, which is recognized annually on June 27. HIV Testing Week is June 26-30.

The goal of the self-testing kit is to allow people to be quick and private with their testing and, according to the DOH, people will get an accurate result without the negative connotation one might feel about being diagnosed at a doctor’s office. 

“Knowing your status empowers you to take steps to protect your health whether it’s getting treatment or considering medicine to prevent infection, also known as Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP),” State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said in a written statement. “The HIV self-test giveaway is another investment in our response to ending the HIV endemic in New York State.”

The HIV self-test giveaway campaign began in 2016 as a pilot program that originally catered to “those who identify as men who have sex with men,” but it has now been extended to, according to a press release, “the broader LGBTQ+ community, including transgender or genderqueer/gender non-conforming people who have sex with men, and heterosexual, bisexual cisgender Black women and Latinas.” According to the DOH, there will be another giveaway this coming fall. 

This giveaway aims to continue the fight against AIDS in New York, where there are approximately 112,000 people living with HIV — including around 7,000 who do not know their HIV status, according to DOH. Almost a third of the individuals who have participated in the project expressed that they have never been tested for HIV before getting the self-test. 

In addition to the state’s efforts, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) hosted an HIV testing day on June 27 at Union Square Park. The event also offered free STI and hepatitis-C testing, mpox vaccination, blood pressure and stress tests, and harm reduction and overdose prevention education. DOHMH partnered on that event with Argus Community, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, Gilead Sciences, and Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Center.

Those who are interested in the self-test can fill out the state DOH’s eligibility survey here.