HIV self-testing (HIVST) is a WHO-recommended strategy to increase testing, especially among key populations, men, and young adults. Between May and December 2019, a pilot was implemented in Zambézia province, Mozambique, allowing clients to purchase HIV self-tests in 14 public/private pharmacies. The study assessed the strategy's acceptability and uptake. Pharmacy-based exit surveys were conducted among a random sample of clients, during the first three months of the pilot, independent of HIVST purchase. Another random sample of clients who bought an HIVST completed a survey 1-12 weeks after purchase. Chi-square and Mann-Whitney tests were used for the analysis, comparing clients who purchased an HIVST versus not. A total of 1,139 adults purchased 1,344 tests. Buyers were predominantly male (70%) and younger (52% between 15 and 34 years of age). Surveys were completed by 280 exiting pharmacy clients and 82 clients who purchased an HIVST. Main advantages were confidentiality and lack of need of a health provider visit, with main disadvantages being absence of nearby counseling and fear of results. No differences were seen between buyers and non-buyers for these factors. Among all undergoing HIVST, 71 (92%) perceived the instructions to be clear, however, 29 (38%) stated they would have benefitted from additional pre-test information or counseling. Ten (13%) reported following up at a nearby health facility to confirm results and/or receive care. Offering HIVST at public/private pharmacies was acceptable among people who traditionally tend to have a lower HIV testing coverage, such as men and young adults. However, additional resources and/or enhanced educational materials to address the lack of counseling, and linkage-to-care systems need to be put into place before scaling up this strategy.
Keywords: HIV self-testing; HIV/AIDS; Mozambique; acceptability; pharmacy.