Objective: HIV testing is increasingly available, yet barriers to HIV testing persist for low-income black and Latino people, especially those who use illicit drugs. HIV exceptionalism, or the idea that a positive HIV diagnosis is drastically different from a diagnosis for any other disease, may influence HIV testing-related stigma, resulting in reduced willingness to undergo HIV testing. This pharmacy-based intervention combined HIV testing with less stigmatized chronic disease screening tests (e.g., blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol) to equate the concept of an HIV diagnosis with other diagnoses.
Methods: Three pharmacies located in low-income, minority neighborhoods in New York City were enrolled in an intervention to provide (1) HIV testing, chronic disease screening, and a healthy lifestyles video that normalized all screening tests and destigmatized HIV as a fatal disease (comprehensive arm); (2) HIV testing and the video (video arm); and (3) HIV testing only (control arm). Injection drug users (IDUs) and pharmacy staff recruited un- and underinsured pharmacy customers, IDUs, and IDU peers from 2010 to 2012. Participants in the control group were compared with those in the comprehensive and video intervention groups.
Results: Participants in the comprehensive arm (prevalence ratio [PR] = 1.61, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.03, 2.49, p=0.08) and the video arm (PR=1.59, 95% CI 1.00, 2.53, p=0.09) were marginally significantly more likely to receive an HIV test in the pharmacy compared with those in the control arm after adjustment.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that adoption of strategies that destigmatize and normalize HIV testing can improve uptake. Implementation of this strategy in low-access, minority communities with high HIV prevalence and among high-risk populations may help reduce racial/ethnic disparities in HIV.