Introduction: HIV testing is key to the delivery of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP): testing HIV-uninfected at-risk persons is the first step for PrEP initiation and ongoing HIV testing is an essential part of PrEP delivery. Thus, novel and cost-effective HIV-testing approaches to streamline delivery of PrEP are urgently needed. Within a demonstration project of PrEP for HIV prevention among high-risk HIV serodiscordant couples in Kenya (the Partners Demonstration Project), we conducted a pilot evaluation of HIV self-testing.
Methods: Clinic visits were scheduled quarterly and included in-clinic HIV testing using fingerstick rapid HIV tests and refills of PrEP prescriptions. HIV oral fluid self-test kits were provided for participants to use in the two-month interval between scheduled quarterly clinic visits. Acceptability of HIV self-testing was assessed using both quantitative and qualitative methods.
Results: We found that 222 of 226 (98%) HIV-uninfected persons who were offered accepted self-testing. Nearly all (96.8%) reported that using the self-testing kit was easy. More than half (54.5%) reportedly did not share the HIV results from self-testing with anyone and almost all (98.7%) the participants did not share the HIV self-testing kits with anyone. Many participants reported that HIV self-testing was empowering and reduced anxiety associated with waiting between clinic HIV tests.
Conclusion: HIV self-testing was highly acceptable and may therefore be a feasible strategy to efficiently permit routine HIV testing between PrEP refills.
Keywords: Feasibility; HIV; Kenya; PrEP; acceptability; self-testing.