Ash Wellness, an at-home diagnostics and testing company, today announced its collaboration with the Fulton County Board of Health (FCBOH) in Atlanta, GA. The partnership provides access to free at-home HIV/STI testing services through a new virtual portal, as part of the county’s StopHIVATL campaign. The goal is to make sexual wellness testing and prevention services more accessible and inclusive for the Atlanta region by reaching citizens who may not otherwise have access.
“As part of an ongoing commitment to serve all of our citizens, the Fulton County Board of Health has always looked for opportunities to reach the communities we serve with the best preventative health care services available,” said Lynn Paxton, M.D. M.P.H., Fulton County Board of Health district health director. “This virtual portal is part of those efforts to encourage both inclusion and quality care for priority communities in our area.”
A recent report from the CDC announced 2.4 million STI cases in 2020, including surges in syphilis and gonorrhea. It is imperative to spread knowledge of sexual health testing services to slow the epidemic, especially during a time when many sexual wellness resources have been diverted to manage the covid-19 pandemic. This announcement marks the launch of Testing My Way ATL, the latest StopHIVATL initiative to bring easy, fast, safe, affordable, and confidential sexual health testing, prevention and education services to Atlanta’s citizens.
“Oftentimes, initiatives build out the infrastructure for their community, but don’t execute on the final and most important step of spreading awareness that it’s available,” said Joshua O’Neal, director of the sexual health program for the FCBOH. “This partnership goes all the way from building resources that make HIV prevention easier and more inclusive, to getting the message to folks who need it most. Atlanta is a majority Black city where 83 percent of those living with HIV are people of color. This program has the power to demonstrate the scalable effects of equitable access to historically underserved communities.”
Atlanta has a high rate of HIV infection (more than 1 in 50 people), which prompted the creation of StopHIVATL’s Testing My Way ATL campaign. Through this partnership, residents can order an at-home test kit in a few short steps, accessible on the StopHIVATL website, and easy access QR codes on the Testing My Way campaign’s outreach materials, including flyers and business cards distributed through partner community based organizations. Bringing testing, resources and results directly to people’s homes helps reach and engage underserved communities who may not seek in-person care due to a number of determinents, including but not limited to finances, work schedules, transportation and stigma (one-quarter of the LGBTQ+ community postponed or avoided health care for fear of discrimination in 2020). Additionally, research shows at-home testing initiatives reach populations that often don’t have access to care through more traditional means.
“Ash Wellness was founded by a largely queer team to make healthcare more inclusive and accessible for all folks, with an emphasis on marginalized communities,” said David Stein, CEO and co-founder of Ash Wellness. “Our partnership with Fulton County Board of Health and StopHIVATL helps ensure community members get the healthcare they deserve. Our hope is this campaign will inspire the creation of more government entity-led public health campaigns.”