Are women more likely to self-test? A short report from an acceptability study of the HIV self-testing kit in South Africa
This study assessed the acceptability of, as well as the facilitators of and barriers to the HIV self-testing kit in the Gauteng province, South Africa. An exploratory qualitative cross-sectional study was conducted using focus group discussions (FGDs) among a sample of 118 respondents selected from the Braamfontein and Soweto areas of Johannesburg. Sixteen FGDs were conducted in order to assess the acceptability of the HIV self-testing kit. Respondent groups were segmented according to area (Soweto or Braamfontein), gender (male or female), age (20–34 and 35–49 years of age) and HIV testing status (have previously tested for HIV or have never tested for HIV) in order to achieve maximum variability. The main advantage identified was that the self-testing kit allows for privacy and confidentiality with regard to HIV status, and does not require a visit to a health facility – two of the main barriers to current HIV counselling and testing uptake. However, respondents, predominantly males, were concerned about the lack of counselling involved, which they thought could lead to suicide ideation among testers. The HIV self-testing kit was found to be acceptable among the majority of respondents. However, there is still a need for follow-up services for self-testers. The idea of a hotline for telephonic counselling within the self-testing model seemed to be favourable among many respondents and is an alternative to traditional face-to-face counselling, although some respondents felt that this was not sufficient.