HIV self-testing (HIVST) that involves training individuals to perform and interpret their own HIV test may prove to be a widely used, safe and accurate method of controlling the epidemic, new research has determined.
These findings suggest that scaling-up HIV self-testing could complement existing strategies for the control of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Only one quarter of adults have had a recent test and only half of people with HIV know their status, the study noted.
“Scaling up HIVST could have a sustained impact on the coverage of HIV testing and care in Africa, especially for men and adolescents,” said the authors of the study led by Liz Corbett of London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and colleagues.
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The researchers evaluated the effectiveness of the method in a two-year community-based prospective study of HIVST in Blantyre, Malawi.
Three-quarters of the residents in the study self-tested (with highest uptake seen in women and adolescents, but also unusually good participation by men), and more than half of the 1,257 participants who discovered they were HIV-positive accessed HIV care.
Importantly, 94.6 percent of the participants reported that they were “highly satisfied” with HIVST even though 2.9 percent reported being forced to take the test, usually by a main partner.
No HIVST-related partner violence or suicides occurred though, the study noted.
The findings appeared in the journal PLOS Medicine.