Social Media-Based Secondary Distribution of Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Syphilis Self-testing Among Chinese Men Who Have Sex with Men

Clin Infect Dis. 2021 Oct 5;73(7):e2251-e2257. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa825.


Background: Social media and secondary distribution (distributing self-testing kits by indexes through their networks) both show strong promise to improve human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) self-testing uptake. We assessed an implementation program in Zhuhai, China, which focused on the secondary distribution of HIV/syphilis self-test kits among men who have sex with men (MSM) via social media.

Methods: Men aged ≥16 years, born biologically male, and ever had sex with another man were recruited as indexes. Banner ads on a social media platform invited the participants to apply for up to 5 self-test kits every 3 months. Index men paid a deposit of US$15/kit refundable upon submitting a photograph of a completed test result via an online submission system. They were informed that they could distribute the kits to others (referred to as "alters").

Results: A total of 371 unique index men applied for 1150 kits (mean age, 28.7 [standard deviation, 6.9] years), of which 1141 test results were returned (99%). Among them, 1099 were valid test results; 810 (74%) were from 331 unique index men, and 289 tests (26%) were from 281 unique alters. Compared to index men, a higher proportion of alters were naive HIV testers (40% vs 21%; P < .001). The total HIV self-test reactivity rate was 3%, with alters having a significantly higher rate than indexes (5% vs 2%; P = .008). A total of 21 people (3%) had a reactive syphilis test result.

Conclusions: Integrating social media with the secondary distribution of self-test kits may hold promise to increase HIV/syphilis testing coverage and case identification among MSM.

Keywords: HIV; MSM; men who have sex with men; secondary distribution; self-testing; social media.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • China / epidemiology
  • HIV
  • HIV Infections* / diagnosis
  • HIV Infections* / epidemiology
  • Homosexuality, Male
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Self-Testing
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities*
  • Social Media*
  • Syphilis* / diagnosis
  • Syphilis* / epidemiology