As the COVID-19 pandemic continues into its second year, health organizations around Michigan have had to adapt to serve their communities in unique circumstances. At Detroit's Corktown Health Center, which prioritizes LGBTQ+ health care, the Director of Program Services Valentina Djelaj said that the organization has had to "think outside the box" to best support its patients. That's why, free, at-home HIV testing kits have been made available.
"We want to remove as many barriers to testing as possible, so we are currently offering this free self-testing option that was developed with support from the state health department," she said. "At-home HIV testing offers folks the opportunity to learn their HIV status in the comfort and safety of their own home. We recognize that there is a pandemic and we need to meet our community where they're at."
She added that often, people aren't sure how to gauge their comfort level around testing within medical facilities during the pandemic despite precautions being in place. This method of testing at home, she said, is one way to prevent that level of discomfort. Djelaj advised those interested in acquiring a testing kit to email [email protected] or call or text at (313) 930-7099 for more information. Those who reach out will be able to choose a guided, or unguided testing option.
"If you opt for a guided test, we will send the kit in the mail that day and schedule your telehealth appointment for a couple of days out," Djelaj said. "Our test counselor will then send you a link for your telehealth appointment and walk you through the entire testing experience virtually, with the kit in front of you."
Beyond kits, Djelaj said that Corktown is also offering consultations to better-inform community members on which insurance option is best for them.
"A new special enrollment period has been opened to the general public where anyone can enroll in marketplace coverage from Feb. 15 through May 15 due to the COVID-19 emergency," she said. "So if folks are interested in health insurance coverage, we can be reached during our regular business hours to answer questions, schedule appointments and get people enrolled."
Increased mental health help has also been a priority for Corktown during the pandemic. Currently, the center plans to introduce a funder-supported, zero-suicide model over the next 18 months.
"As Michigan's first LGBTQ+ health center, we recognize and continue to address the health disparities that our high-risk population faces and it should come as no surprise to folks that the behavioral health needs of our patients continue to rise during this pandemic," she said.
The Center's Saturday hours for health insurance help are March 27, April 10, April 24 and May 8 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The main Corktown Health Center number (313) 832-3300, and it can be called to set up appointments. Learn more about the Center's services online at corktownhealth.org.