Alaskans can now receive a home-test kit for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in an anonymous envelope—complete with instructions, a unique identification number and a prepaid return envelope—to send self-collected vaginal, penile or rectal swabs in specially sealed test tubes to the “I Want the Kit” (IWTK) lab at Johns Hopkins University.
The lab tests the swabs for chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomonas. Alaska had the highest chlamydia rate in the country in 2010, and the second highest rate of gonorrhea. Alaska has consistently had the first or second highest rates of chlamydia since 2000. The IWTK at-home testing service is being introduced to help reduce those numbers.
The kits are provided through a partnership between the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC), the Indian Health Service (IHS), and John Hopkins University, and available for anyone residing in Alaska.
“This has been a collective endeavor amongst tribal, state and federal health organizations in an effort to curb Alaska’s endemic rates of chlamydia and outbreak of gonorrhea,” said Connie Jessen, ANTHC STD program manager. “We hope this at-home testing initiative will provide a viable addition to the currently available STD testing services in Alaska.”
The “I Want the Kit” program was launched in Baltimore in 2004 by John Hopkins University. The Hopkins group originally designed the website www.iwantthekit.org to track new and recurrent infections by providing private, confidential testing for Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Trichomonas vaginalis. The kits are now available by phone or online in Alaska and the Lower 48.
“Infectious disease experts at Johns Hopkins say research clearly shows that screening teens and young adults, who otherwise would not come into any clinic, for sexually transmitted infections may best be achieved by making free, confidential home-kit testing available over the Internet," said Brenna Simons, ANTHC medical research associate. “From a public health standpoint, we hope this project reduces barriers to testing and care.”
The kits are mailed back in plain, brown paper envelopes with basic contact information. Within two weeks of sending the test to the lab, people can call a toll-free number or elect to receive an email or phone call from a nurse to receive their test results.
Alaskans can request the at-home testing kits online at www.iknowmine.org or www.iwantthekit.org, or by calling (866) 575-5504. Those who test positive for chlamydia, gonorrhea, or trichomonas will be contacted with various options for treatment. The tests are done in a qualified laboratory at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore using standard FDA-cleared state-of-the-art molecular tests and equipment. The testing is confidential, but positive test results will be reported to the State of Alaska as required by law. Alaskans who have questions can call ANTHC’s HIV/STD Program Services at 877-334-8762.