"He Told Me to Check My Health": A Qualitative Exploration of Social Network Influence on Men's HIV Testing Behavior and HIV Self-Testing Willingness in Tanzania

Am J Mens Health. 2018 Sep;12(5):1185-1196. doi: 10.1177/1557988318777674. Epub 2018 May 29.


Men continue to test for HIV at a low rate in sub-Saharan Africa. Recent quantitative evidence from sub-Saharan Africa indicates that encouragement to test for HIV from men's network members is associated with higher previous HIV testing and HIV self-testing (HIVST) willingness. Leveraging this positive network influence to promote HIVST among men is a promising strategy that could increase HIV testing. This study investigated the reasons and strategies men used to encourage their peers to test for HIV and the outcomes in order to inform the development of a social network-based HIVST intervention for men called STEP (Self-Testing Education and Promotion). Twenty-three men from networks locally referred to as "camps" were interviewed to explore reasons for encouraging HIV testing, strategies to encourage HIV testing, and outcomes of HIV testing encouragement. Reasons men reported for encouraging their peers to test for HIV included awareness of their peers' risky sexual behavior, knowing an HIV-positive peer, and having HIV testing experience. Strategies for encouraging testing included engaging in formal and informal conversations and accompanying friends to the clinic. Encouragement outcomes included HIV testing for some men while others remained untested due to lack of privacy in the clinic and fear of HIV stigma. Willingness to self-test for HIV and an interest to educate peers about HIVST were other outcomes of HIV testing encouragement. These findings underscore the potential of leveraging men's existing HIV testing encouragement strategies to promote HIVST among their peers.

Keywords: HIV self-testing; HIV testing; intervention: Dar es Salaam; men; social network.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • Health Behavior*
  • Homosexuality, Male / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Peer Group*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Sexual Partners / psychology
  • Social Support*
  • Tanzania
  • Young Adult