Introduction: HIV testing opportunities in Italy are frequently limited to the hospital setting. Experiences in other countries show that offering HIV testing in other facilities could improve HIV testing uptake.
Methods: An internet-based survey was conducted between March 10 and April 3, 2014.
Results: A total number of 348 questionnaires were collected. Responders were 88% male. Most represented age groups were 25-34 (35%) and 35-44 (25%). Most of the responders identify themselves as homosexual (81%) or bisexual (9%). Half of responders had an HIV test within 2 years (56%) while 18% never tested for HIV. Among all responders, 61% had more than 2 sexual partners in the past year. Reported condom use in the past year was: always 39%, always but once 11%, sometimes 27%, never 14%. Most known places to have an HIV test is the hospital (95%), STI clinic (58%) and chemical analysis laboratory (54%); most used places are hospital (73%), STI clinic (30%), laboratory (22%) while 5 responders reported having had a self-test at home. Preferred places where to have an HIV test is self-testing at home (53%), hospital (36%), pharmacy (32%) and headquarter of an organization (31%). Most known testing method is draw blood from vein (97%), which is also most used (80%) but the least preferred (31%) while saliva (65%) and finger prick (56%) are the preferred choices. Most responders know that physicians (84%) and nurses (77%) are those who perform HIV tests and most of them had an HIV test with them (60% and 65% respectively). Physicians are the preferred operators (54%) followed by self-testing (46%), nurses (46%) and peer-volunteers (39%). The ideal HIV test should be: reliable (86%), with no medical prescription (75%), free (63%), rapid (55%), with no personal information collected (45%), with the opportunity to speak with a peer-counsellor (36%).
Conclusions: Changing HIV testing policies in Italy is urgently needed in order to grant a better access to the service: waiting for the results and bureaucratic obligations represent the major barriers to be removed. Home-testing and community-based testing seem to be among the best ways to offer new opportunities though they may require a change in the legal, social and cultural context to be implemented and home testing will not allow any kind of support for newly diagnosed people.