Despite advances in HIV treatments, as well as successful campaigns aimed to decrease the stigma of HIV, a small but significant portion of individuals at risk of HIV in BC are delaying or not getting tested due to concerns about confidentiality.
To improve HIV testing options for these individuals, the BC Centre for Disease Control launched an anonymous HIV testing pilot in March 2013. The anonymous HIV testing pilot allows individuals to test for HIV using a numbered code that is known only to them and no identifiable personal or contact information is collected. All testing, recording and reporting of results are made using the numbered code and the client must provide their code to get their result.
The objectives of the pilot are:
- To increase the uptake of HIV testing in people who may not test or delay testing due to confidentiality concerns (i.e. MSM, youth, and healthcare workers), and
- To optimize connection to follow-up, care and support for those who test HIV positive.
Implementation of the pilot has been gradual, with seven sites now offering anonymous HIV testing in BC:
- BCCDC Provincial STI Clinic (Vancouver)
- Fraser Health Authority Blood Borne Pathogens Team (various locations throughout Fraser Health Region)
- BCCDC Bute Street Clinic (Vancouver)
- Health Initiative for Men Clinic on Davie Street (Vancouver)
- Health Initiative for Men Clinic on The Drive (Vancouver)
- Immunodeficiency Clinic, St. Paul’s Hospital (Vancouver)
- Victoria Health Unit – STI Clinic (Victoria)
Discussions are underway with other sites in the province to offer anonymous HIV testing and BCCDC is keen to support further expansion.
Promotional & awareness activities
Community organizations, such as the Health Initiative for Men (HIM), AIDS Vancouver, Positive Living BC and the Pacific AIDS Network (PAN) have included information about the pilot on their websites as well. In addition, information about the availability of anonymous testing has been included as part of occupational health resources in some health authorities.
Each participating pilot site has been encouraged to promote anonymous testing using means that are appropriate for their clients. Clinic posters and wallet cards are being used by some pilot sites to inform clients about various types of HIV testing available, including anonymous HIV testing.
BCCDC is planning to increase promotional efforts to attempt to reach individuals who may not be testing due to privacy concerns. This will be done by continuing to working with community agencies, and seeking out other opportunities in specific online environments (e.g., banner ads on sex-seeking websites).
For further information
Visit the AHT Program page on the BCCDC website.
Contact Bobbi Brownrigg, Leader Public Health Initiatives and Innovation at BCCDC at bobbi.brownrigg(at)bccdc.ca