Understanding the Outcomes of Implementing Online HIV and COVID Self-Testing during the COVID‑19 Pandemic: The GetaKit Study
The COVID‑19 pandemic highlighted the importance of public health services, specifically related to testing and contact tracing. The pandemic also highlighted limitations of healthcare service delivery during pandemics: such services were wholly depended on in-person services, despite safe, secure, and usable online services and at-home self-test devices. In response to this, I led a team of researchers and public health workers from the University of Ottawa, Ottawa Public Health, and the Ontario HIV Treatment Network to implement the 1st online HIV self-testing project in Canada (entitled ‘GetaKit’). Through GetaKit, participants completed a self-assessment, including information about their demographics, and were deemed eligible (i.e., at-risk) for HIV or not. Those who were deemed eligible were offered a free self-test kit. All data (from the demographics, registration information, self-assessment, test eligibility, etc.) are recorded in our online GetaKit system and can be extracted for analysis. GetaKit has undergone two expansions since launching on July 20, 2020 in Ottawa only — with a specific focus the HIV priority groups of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, persons who are trans, members of Indigenous communities, and persons who are of African, Caribbean, or Black ethnicities. The 1st of these expansions is that molecular COVID self-tests are available through GetaKit across Ontario as of October 14, 2021. Second, HIV self-testing is becoming available through GetaKit across Ontario. In the proposed study, we will analyze the data from GetaKit to address the following aims: 1.To quantify the impact of COVID‑19 on HIV testing numbers, rates, and diagnoses in Ontario. 2. To determine if COVID‑19 affected HIV testing numbers, rates, and diagnoses more profoundly among HIV priority groups, compared to the entire population in Ontario. 3. To identify the proportion of HIV testing that was done in Ottawa via GetaKit during COVID-19.