Background: Vaginal self-sampling with HPV-DNA tests is a promising primary screening method for cervical cancer. However, women's experiences, concerns and the acceptability of such tests in low-resource settings remain unknown.
Methods: In India, Nicaragua, and Uganda, a mixed-method design was used to collect data from surveys (N = 3,863), qualitative interviews (N = 72; 20 providers and 52 women) and focus groups (N = 30 women) on women's and providers' experiences with self-sampling, women's opinions of sampling at home, and their future needs.
Results: Among surveyed women, 90% provided a self- collected sample. Of these, 75% reported it was easy, although 52% were initially concerned about hurting themselves and 24% were worried about not getting a good sample. Most surveyed women preferred self-sampling (78%). However it was not clear if they responded to the privacy of self-sampling or the convenience of avoiding a pelvic examination, or both. In follow-up interviews, most women reported that they didn't mind self-sampling, but many preferred to have a provider collect the vaginal sample. Most women also preferred clinic-based screening (as opposed to home-based self-sampling), because the sample could be collected by a provider, women could receive treatment if needed, and the clinic was sanitary and provided privacy. Self-sampling acceptability was higher when providers prepared women through education, allowed women to examine the collection brush, and were present during the self-collection process. Among survey respondents, aids that would facilitate self-sampling in the future were: staff help (53%), additional images in the illustrated instructions (31%), and a chance to practice beforehand with a doll/model (26%).
Conclusion: Self-and vaginal-sampling are widely acceptable among women in low-resource settings. Providers have a unique opportunity to educate and prepare women for self-sampling and be flexible in accommodating women's preference for self-sampling.