The Wyoming Department of Health promoted free HIV testing vouchers earlier this month for World AIDS Day, which was Dec. 1. What you may not know, is that those vouchers are available year-round at www.knowyo.org.
The website and voucher program launched in June, 2010. From then until the end of October, 2011, more than 3,950 vouchers were downloaded from the web site, 1,941 of which were redeemed, said to Rob Johnston, HIV prevention coordinator for the Wyoming Department of Health.
"It's exceeded our expectations," Johnston said.
The vouchers cover lab work for either conventional or rapid HIV testing at 33 family planning clinics and public health offices in 23 towns throughout the Wyoming. Some locations also offer screenings for other Sexually Transmitted Diseases, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea or -- for high-risk individuals -- hepatitis B or hepatitis C. The vouchers do not cover consultations or treatments.
The vouchers are available by going to www.knowyo.org and clicking on "get tested" on the right-hand side of the home page. Vouchers are also available via text message. Just text "KNOW" to 91011.
In addition to the vouchers, the website provides information on symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of STDs as well as information on where to find additional resources.
"People do not, in Wyoming, perceive themselves at risk for HIV infections or STD infections, and we think it's important that every adult know his or her status and youth know what resources are available to them," Johnston said.
An interactive map on the home page of the web site, which was designed by Adbay, a Casper-based advertising agency, illustrates the number of people with certain STDs living in Wyoming communities. For example, click on "hiv" in the red bar to the right of the map and red circles appear over towns in which HIV was reported in 2009. The size of the circle indicates the number of cases. Since only 23 cases of HIV were reported in Wyoming in 2009, the circles are small. Click on a more common STD, such as chlamydia, which affected 2,088 Wyomingites in 2009, and larger color bubbles appear. (The map will be updated soon with statistics for 2010.)
This and other tools on the website have contributed to it's success.
Since it was launched, there have been 34,000 visitors to the site, 22,000 of whom were Wyoming residents. In the past month, there were nearly 3,000 visitors to the site, 87 percent of whom were using it for the first time.
Part of the success is contributed to advertisements on Facebook targeting Wyoming residents. Forty-one percent of Wyoming visitors to www.knowyo.org found the site through the Facebook ad.
"We're finding that we're getting name-recognition with the site," Johnston said.