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Toronto Clinics Worried about the Potential Loss of Funding for Complementary HIV self-Testing Kits


The Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre has observed first-hand the positive impact of providing free HIV self-tests to the community and is concerned about the potential consequences if funding for these tests runs out. Launched just over two months ago, the program aims to make testing as accessible and approachable as possible.

“It empowers people… It gives people the option to take charge of their own health and get tested,” stated Arpa Azmila, the HIV testing lead at the clinic. Any individual can visit the clinic and request a kit, receiving education on how to use it along with additional resources to support them throughout the testing process and afterward.

Kayley Bomben, a client support worker at the clinic, guides individuals through the testing process and provides supplementary resources, including hand warmers. “We are in the colder months, and we do occasionally distribute tests to our unhoused individuals… we also provide flashlights for those who want to use them in their tents,” explained Bomben.

Demand for the free tests has steadily increased since the Parkdale Queen West clinic began offering them in December. However, the program’s future is uncertain as it relies on federal funding, which advocates warn may only last for a few more weeks.

Prossy Luzige, employed at a community-based healthcare center in York Region, revealed that this year alone, the center has distributed over 600 kits. “We still have many people who are undiagnosed and don’t know their HIV status,” Luzige emphasized. “Testing for HIV is not an easy thing. It takes time for an individual to make a decision to do it by themselves. So making it available and giving them options and addressing the barriers, it definitely increases access.”

The demand for these kits continues to rise. Luzige emphasized, “It empowers an individual to take charge of their lives, to take charge of their health, to take control, to make this option as one of the options which addresses the barriers, including stigma discrimination.”

She expressed concern about the potential consequences if there are no more kits available by the end of next month. “It is a huge impact and it leaves us with so many questions on what to do next. How do we address this huge problem?”

Luzige urged the government, our government, to reassess and allocate resources to this initiative as part of their commitment to ending HIV by 2030.

The Public Health Agency of Canada stated that they are “continuing to investigate avenues to ensure HIV self-test kits remain accessible to community-based organizations beyond March 31.”

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