Rates of sexually transmitted infections have increased nationwide during the pandemic. Here's how to order a free STI self-testing kit to your local post office
Following an uptick in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) nationwide, The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) is encouraging sexually active Alaskans to get tested for STIs. Anyone with an Alaska mailing address, including a P.O. box, can order a completely free STI self-testing kit.
According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while the rates of STIs have increased during the pandemic, the rate of testing for STIs has decreased. ANTHC wants to change that by making STI testing easier, more affordable, and more private.
Stigma and lack of access can hold some Alaskans back from getting tested. That’s a problem, because Alaska has the nation’s highest rates of chlamydia and the second highest rates of gonorrhea, according to the CDC.
Before this self-swab test initiative was announced last year, the only way to get tested in a village in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta was through a local clinic by a community health aide. Another option was to fly to Bethel and test at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation, the Bethel Family Clinic, or another local doctor.
The odds of running into someone you know at the clinics in Bethel are fairly high. If you live in a small village, the odds of personally knowing your community health aide are even higher.
“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 Hannah Warren, an STI Prevention Manager at ANTHC.
ANTHC runs the self-swab program in partnership with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and Johns Hopkins University.
Although the CDC estimates that one in five Americans has a sexually transmitted disease, Warren said that STIs unfortunately still come with some stigma attached.
“So, when you're asking for HIV or STI tests, you're thinking about not just the implications of being at risk for HIV or STI, but then you're also thinking about the relationships that you have in your community and how it might impact the way that you interact with others in your community,” said Warren.
Warren said that that the self-swab kit aims to make it easier and more discreet for people to detect and treat their STIs. And this self-swab test can detect gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis, all of which are curable.
Warren said that it takes about two weeks to get your results from the date you first order the test, which will come in discreet packaging. When you get your results, if they’re positive, ANTHC will connect you with a health care professional who can walk you through your treatment options.
There is also a separate free test for HIV. Those results you can test for on your own, and you don’t have to mail back your test to receive your results. They’ll show up on the test in about 20 minutes.