Dr. Elizabeth Kelvin, a Professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy and colleagues recently published a report about choices in HIV testing, including the acceptability and anticipated use of a self-administered at-home oral HIV test among South Africans. The work was published in the African Journal of AIDS Research.
The strategy of combination HIV prevention offers choices that can be selected and combined to decrease HIV risk that fit with each individual’s situation. Treatment as prevention and pre-exposure prophylaxis are two new evidence-based strategies to decrease HIV incidence. Both strategies require high HIV testing rates to be effective, and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS set a goal of 90% of HIV-positive individuals knowing their status by 2030. Unfortunately HIV testing rates in many countries remain suboptimal. The goal is to increase testing rates by offering HIV testing choices. Many low-resourced countries have been slow to take up new HIV testing options such as the self-administered at-home oral HIV test.
The authors present findings from in-depth interviews with clients of three primary healthcare clinics in South Africa. The researchers document opinions about self-administered at-home oral HIV testing, a testing modality still largely unavailable in Africa. Self-testing was seen as enabling confidentiality/privacy, saving time, and facilitating testing together with partners. Clients raised concerns about psychological distress when testing at home without a counsellor. Some individuals suggested this could be minimized by having experienced clinic-based HIV testing and counselling before getting self-testing kits for home use. Thus, self-administered HIV testing could be an option added to current modalities to address some important barriers.
This paper was also featured in the September 2016 issue of The AIDSFree Update, a monthly newsletter summarizing seminal articles across HIV prevention topics.