Preparedness for use of the rapid result HIV self-test by gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) : a mixed methods exploratory study among MSM and those involved in HIV prevention and care

Flowers, P and Riddell, J and Park, C and Ahmed, B and Young, I and Frankis, J and Davis, M and Gilbert, M and Estcourt, C and Wallace, L and McDaid, LM (2017) Preparedness for use of the rapid result HIV self-test by gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM) : a mixed methods exploratory study among MSM and those involved in HIV prevention and care. HIV Medicine, 18 (4). pp. 245-255. ISSN 1464-2662

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    Abstract

    Objectives: The aim of the study was to explore preparedness for the HIV self-test among men who have sex with men (MSM) and those involved in HIV prevention and care. Methods: A mixed methods exploratory research design was employed, detailing awareness and willingness to use the self-test and the perceived barriers and facilitators to implementation. Quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis were completed in parallel. Descriptive and inferential analysis of cross-sectional bar-based survey data collected from MSM through a self-completed questionnaire and oral fluid specimen collection (n = 999) was combined with qualitative, thematic, analysis of data collected through 12 expert focus groups (n = 55) consisting of gay men, National Health Service (NHS) staff, community organizations, entrepreneurs and activists. Findings were subsequently combined and assessed for synergies. Results: Among MSM, self-test awareness was moderate (55%). Greater awareness was associated with increased educational attainment [adjusted odds ratio 1.51; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.00–2.30; P = 0.05] and previous history of sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing (adjusted odds ratio 1.63; 95% CI 1.11–2.39; P = 0.01). Willingness to use the test was high (89%) and associated with meeting sexual partners online (unadjusted odds ratio 1.96; 95% CI 1.31–2.94; P < 0.001). Experts highlighted the overall acceptability of self-testing; it was understood as convenient, discreet, accessible, and with a low burden to services. However, some ambivalence towards self-testing was reported; it could reduce opportunities to engage with wider services, wider health issues and the determinants of risk. Conclusions: Self-testing represents an opportunity to reduce barriers to HIV testing and enhance prevention and access to care. Levels of awareness are moderate but willingness to use is high. Self-testing may amplify health inequalities.