Take Me Home, the mail-order STI testing service, did not intentionally launch just as a nationwide lockdown went into effect. But its timing couldn’t have been more fortuitous.
Over the course of a year, Take Me Home—which operates as part of a non-profit arm of Building Healthy Online Communities—added 20 different jurisdictions and sent out around 6,000 test kits. But more importantly, Tae Me Home is a company dedicated to erasing stigma and shame from sexual activity and STIs.
One can see that in their choice to partner first with apps like Grindr and Scruff and now with Felix Fox and Adrian Hart to share their messaging.
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“A third of the people who used our program last year had never tested for HIV before,” says Emmett Patterson, of Building Healthy Online Communities. “We wanted to create an experience where it wasn’t the traditional way of being tested.”
In addition to the expected levels of discretion and privacy—some users have joked that when the test kit arrives, the packaging could be anything from jockstraps to skincare products—Take Me Home purposefully avoids the classic HIV/AIDS iconography: There are no red ribbons to be seen.
That’s a refreshing change of pace that draws a clear distinction between the early days of that health crisis and today’s radically different world. “The red ribbon is a very specific symbol,” Patterson says. “Some of our users have said seeing that feels really triggering, and they were happy to see something that felt pretty and exciting and kind of sexy and simple. We want it to feel like an experience that puts you in control. It’s about being in control of your health and celebrating the fact that you’re having sex.”
The goal has always been to make STI testing “something that’s not a dirge or difficult to go through, but allows you to have great sex and have a great sex life,” Patterson says. “It doesn’t have to be this guilty or shameful thing.”
Over the last year, Take Me Home’s team has focused on reaching communities who may be removed from queer spaces or may struggle to reach a testing site, including people in rural communities, indigenous tribal communities, and disabled and chronically ill folx.
As as they make testing more accessible and remove roadblocks, Take Me Home always wants to convey a very different message regarding the transmission of STIs. Part of that is shrugging off the “sexually” part of that acronym. People have sex—there’s nothing to be ashamed of regarding that, and sometimes sex leads to an STI. The important thing is to remain in control of your health to keep having sex.
And though some may be intimidated by receiving a positive diagnosis while alone at home, others have reached out to say thank you for allowing them the chance to process the news alone before immediately jumping into the medical system.
In the meantime, Take Me Home is focused on expanding its reach and its messaging, including a Spanish-language version. And if things go well with their latest campaign, Patterson is tentatively hopeful that they’ll have more porn star collaborations in the future.
“Hopefully we can still be a solid testing resource for folks. I think that we’re going to keep doing our best to make our service more accessible and easier to use and just better at the end of the day. This is a great experiment—hopefully it’s a successful one!”
Visit takemehome.org for more information on available test kits, as well as to see if it is available in your area.