Through sequential cross-sectional surveys, we examined intent to use home HIV test collection kits, actual use and barriers to use among persons at high risk for HIV infection. Interest in kits was assessed in the 1995-96 HIV Testing Survey (HITS, n=1683). Kit use, knowledge of kits and barriers to use were assessed in the 1998-99 HITS (n=1788), after kits had become widely available. When asked to choose among future testing options, 19% of 1995-96 participants intended to use kits. Untested participants were more likely than previously tested HIV-negative participants to choose kits for their next HIV test (p < 0.001). Among 1998-99 participants, only 24 (1%) had used kits; 46% had never heard of kits. Predictors of not knowing about kits included never having been HIV tested and black or Latino race. Common reasons for not using kits among participants aware of home test kits were concerns about accuracy, lack of in-person counselling and cost. Despite high rates of anticipated use, kits have had minimal impact on the testing behaviour of persons at high risk for HIV infection. Increasing awareness of kits, reducing price and addressing concerns about kit testing procedures may increase kit use, leading to more HIV testing by at-risk individuals.