In Practice

HIV self-screening distribution preferences and experiences among men who have sex with men in Mpumalanga Province: Informing policy for South Africa

O Radebe, S A Lippman, T Lane, H Gilmore, E Agnew, A Manyuchi, J A McIntyre

Abstract


Current research suggests that HIV self-screening (HIVSS) is a feasible and acceptable approach to increase HIV testing among men who have sex with men (MSM). However, few data are available to shape policy around dissemination and implementation. Gaps in knowledge include preferences for distribution of HIVSS kits, potential social harms and benefits of their use, and how much test users would be willing to pay for the kits. The aim was to inform policy recommendations to optimise distribution of HIVSS kits to MSM in South Africa (SA), where there is a high HIV incidence and unmet testing needs. MSM in the high-HIV-prevalence Gert Sibande and Ehlanzeni districts of Mpumalanga Province, SA, were enrolled between October 2015 and May 2017. Participants were provided with their choice of blood or oral fluid HIVSS test kits, receiving 5 kits at enrolment and 4 additional kits at the 3-month follow-up visit. Questionnaires were administered at enrolment, 3 months and 6 months. We analysed participants’ reported social benefits and harms, and their preferences for kit distribution and pricing. Among 127 MSM screened and enrolled, 114 responded to follow-up questionnaires regarding distribution preferences, 49.3% preferred to acquire HIVSS kits at a community-based organisation (CBO) and 42.7% at a clinic, with 8% preferring a pharmacy. Participants with higher education preferred CBO sites for distribution; in other respects preferences were similar by demographic characteristics. Reported social benefits were common, including knowing one’s status, prevention knowledge gained and improved communication with partners. Despite ubiquitous interest in using the kits, the majority of MSM could not afford to purchase test kits. SA guidelines have integrated HIVSS into HIV and testing policy, but little has been published regarding distribution channels of the kits for MSM and other key populations. There is a partnership between the National Department of Health and CBOs that specialise in key population programming to ensure MSM and other populations with unmet testing needs can access affordable test kits. We observed no social harms, and there were multiple social benefits. Consequently, we recommend immediate free or low-cost distribution of HIVSS kits to MSM through community-based initiatives. Future research should continue to assess optimised linkage to care.


Authors' affiliations

O Radebe, Anova Health Institute, Johannesburg, South Africa; and Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, Division of Prevention Science, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA

S A Lippman, Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, Division of Prevention Science, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA

T Lane, Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, Division of Prevention Science, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA; and Equal International, Horsham, UK

H Gilmore, Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, Division of Prevention Science, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA

E Agnew, Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, Division of Prevention Science, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA

A Manyuchi, Anova Health Institute, Johannesburg, South Africa

J A McIntyre, Anova Health Institute, Johannesburg; and School of Public Health and Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

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Keywords

HIVSS: HIV self-screening

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2019;109(4):227-231. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2019.v109i4.13818

Article History

Date submitted: 2019-03-29
Date published: 2019-03-29

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