Texas Health Action has launched a statewide telehealth service providing access to HIV prevention and care and to gender-affirming care at little to no cost to the patient, THA officials said this week. THA is the first non-profit organization in the country to do so.

TeleKind, the organization’s new program, allows any Texas resident 18 years and older to access comprehensive sexual health services regardless of gender identity, gender expression, race, creed, sexual orientation, immigration status or ability to pay, according to a press release announcing the program.

Virtual appointments are available through secure, two-way video with a health care provider specializing in each of the services offered through TeleKind. Patients are also assigned a personal care navigator to help guide them through the appointment process, care plans and options for at-home testing kits and direct-to-patient prescription delivery.

All clinical services are free, and personal care navigators ensure all prescriptions are secured at little to no cost to the patient.

According to a 2017 study in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, persons in rural communities were found to have a higher risk of health complications and limited access to health services; moreover, these individuals were unable to see a physician in the past 12 months because of cost.

Christopher Hamilton, CEO of Texas Health Action, said, “Some Texans are being left behind from critical sexual health care like HIV/STI prevention and treatment, especially those in areas without clinics that specialize in judgement-free sexual health services. Our approach to health care is radical in its simplicity: We prioritize kindness and innovation to meet our patients where they are.”

Megan Brunson, COO for Texas Health Action, pointed to a recent study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases suggesting immediate action is needed to limit the impact of HIV/STI service interruptions and address the indirect effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic on the HIV/STI epidemic.

Brunson said, “Many nonprofit organizations and public entities have been unable to meet the growing demand for the testing and treatment of HIV and STIs because already limited resources have been diverted to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we have prioritized investment in our innovative and accessible approach to providing sexual health services to close the gap for those who need it most, including those in rural areas of our state as well as underserved communities such as Black, Latinx, transgender and gender non-conforming Texans.”

The press release notes that all TeleKind providers and care navigators have expertise in serving the LGBTQIA+ community and people living with HIV. Patients can access appointments, testing and medication, all from the comfort of their home. To sign up for TeleKind visit the website here.