Willingness of Chinese Men Who Have Sex With Men to Use Smartphone-Based Electronic Readers for HIV Self-testing: Web-Based Cross-sectional Study

J Med Internet Res. 2021 Nov 19;23(11):e26480. doi: 10.2196/26480.


Background: The need for strategies to encourage user-initiated reporting of results after HIV self-testing (HIVST) persists. Smartphone-based electronic readers (SERs) have been shown capable of reading diagnostics results accurately in point-of-care diagnostics and could bridge the current gaps between HIVST and linkage to care.

Objective: Our study aimed to assess the willingness of Chinese men who have sex with men (MSM) in the Jiangsu province to use an SER for HIVST through a web-based cross-sectional study.

Methods: From February to April 2020, we conducted a convenience web-based survey among Chinese MSM by using a pretested structured questionnaire. Survey items were adapted from previous HIVST feasibility studies and modified as required. Prior to answering reader-related questions, participants watched a video showcasing a prototype SER. Statistical analysis included descriptive analysis, chi-squared test, and multivariable logistic regression. P values less than .05 were deemed statistically significant.

Results: Of 692 participants, 369 (53.3%) were aged 26-40 years, 456 (65.9%) had ever self-tested for HIV, and 493 (71.2%) were willing to use an SER for HIVST. Approximately 98% (483/493) of the willing participants, 85.3% (459/538) of ever self-tested and never self-tested, and 40% (46/115) of unwilling participants reported that SERs would increase their HIVST frequency. Engaging in unprotected anal intercourse with regular partners compared to consistently using condoms (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 3.04, 95% CI 1.19-7.74) increased the odds of willingness to use an SER for HIVST. Participants who had ever considered HIVST at home with a partner right before sex compared to those who had not (AOR 2.99, 95% CI 1.13-7.90) were also more willing to use an SER for HIVST. Playing receptive roles during anal intercourse compared to playing insertive roles (AOR 0.05, 95% CI 0.02-0.14) was associated with decreased odds of being willing to use an SER for HIVST. The majority of the participants (447/608, 73.5%) preferred to purchase readers from local Centers of Disease Control and Prevention offices and 51.2% (311/608) of the participants were willing to pay less than US $4.70 for a reader device.

Conclusions: The majority of the Chinese MSM, especially those with high sexual risk behaviors, were willing to use an SER for HIVST. Many MSM were also willing to self-test more frequently for HIV with an SER. Further research is needed to ascertain the diagnostic and real-time data-capturing capacity of prototype SERs during HIVST.

Keywords: HIV self-testing; HIVST; cellular phone–based readers; electronic readers; mHealth; self-testing; smartphone-based electronic reader.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • China
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Electronics
  • HIV Infections* / diagnosis
  • HIV Infections* / prevention & control
  • Homosexuality, Male
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities*
  • Smartphone