Oklahoma Among Seven States With Highest Rural HIV Burden
Free Self-Test Program Aims to Limit Spread of HIV
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma was recently identified as one of seven states in the U.S. with the highest rural burden of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is now offering free, at-home HIV rapid self-tests as part of an effort to help decrease the spread.
The seven states with the highest rural burden of HIV include Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and South Carolina.
Oraquick In-Home HIV rapid-tests are available at no cost for Oklahomans through the federal “Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. (EHE)” initiative. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched the EHE initiative in 2019 to reduce new HIV infections in the U.S. by scaling up key HIV prevention and treatment strategies.
“This test is part of an effort to combat the spread of HIV in places in the United States where the infection rate is increasing,” Sexual Health and Harm Reduction Service Director Terrainia Harris, MPH, said. “It’s one of several ways we hope to connect those living with HIV to the care they need.”
The tests are delivered by mail in a discreetly packaged kit that also contains sexual health resources and information on additional ways to prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STI).
Over the last five years, approximately 21 percent of newly diagnosed HIV cases in Oklahoma were among persons identified as late testers – those who received an AIDS diagnosis less than three months after their first positive HIV test.
New medication therapies allow people living with HIV to lead healthy lives. With proper treatment, the virus can be reduced to undetectable levels, meaning it cannot be spread through sexual contact between the infected person and an uninfected person.
“Together with our outreach programs, community-based organizations, health workers and intervention specialists, we have a statewide network of care that connects people living with HIV to the treatment they need,” said Atonbara Sowemimo, Sexual Health and Harm Reduction Service prevention programs manager.
HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). The CDC recommends everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime, and at least once a year if a person partakes in activities that might increase their risk. People who test regularly are aware of their HIV status and can access HIV treatment and care more quickly and remain healthy for many years and possible their entire life.
Visit https://endinghivoklahoma.org for more information, or to order a free In-Home HIV rapid-test.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) protects and improves public health through its system of local health services and strategies focused on preventing disease. OSDH provides technical support and guidance to 68 county health departments in Oklahoma, as well as guidance and consultation to the two independent city-county health departments in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Learn more at Oklahoma.gov/health.