Feasibility of community-based HIV self-screening in South Africa: a demonstration project

Lebina, L., Seatlholo, N., Taruberekera, N. et al.


HIV diagnosis is a critical step in linking HIV-infected individuals to care and treatment and linking HIV-uninfected persons to prevention services. However, the uptake of HIV testing remains low in many countries. HIV self-screening (HIVSS) is acceptable to adults, but there is limited data on HIVSS feasibility in community programmes. This study aimed to evaluate the feasibility of HIVSS in South Africa.


We conducted a prospective study that enrolled participants through mobile site, homebased, workplace and sex worker programmes in two townships from May to November 2017. Following an information session on HIVSS, interested participants were offered one of three methods of HIVSS testing: supervised, semi-supervised, and unsupervised. Participants who opted for unsupervised testing and those who tested HIV positive after semi- or supervised HIVSS were followed up telephonically or with a home visit one week after receipt of the test kit to confirm results and linkages to care. Follow-up visits were concluded when the participant indicated that they had used the kit or had accessed a confirmatory HIV test.


Of the 2061 people approached, 88.2% (1818/2061) received HIV testing information. Of this group, 89% (1618/1818) were enrolled in the study and 70.0% (1133/1618) were tested for HIV with the kit. The median age was 28 (IQR:23–33) years with an even gender distribution. Of those enrolled, 43.0% (696/1618) were identified through homebased outreach, 42.5% (687/1618) through mobile sites, 7.3% (118/1618) at their workplace and 7.2% (117/1618) from sex worker programmes. A total of 68.7% (1110/1616) selected unsupervised HIVSS, whereas 6.3% (101/1616) opted for semi-supervised and 25.0% ((405/1616) chose supervised HIVSS. Overall, the HIV prevalence using the HIVSS test was 8.2% (93/1129). Of those newly diagnosed with HIV, 16% (12/75) were initiated on ART. Almost half (48.0%; 543/1131) of those tested were linked to a primary HIV test as follows: supervised (85.2%; 336/394); semi-supervised (93.8%; 91/97) and unsupervised (18.1%; 116/640).


Unsupervised HIVSS was by far the most selected and utilised HIVSS method. Linkages to primary and confirmatory testing for the unsupervised HIVSS and further care were low, despite home visits and telephonic reminders.

July 2, 2020
Year of publication
Resource types
Journal and research articles
health behavior, HIV self screening

Similar Resources

South Africa has implemented a community-based HIV programme (CBHP) in its primary healthcare (PHC) re-engineering strategy that aims to improve public healthcare delivery.

Community-based HIV testing and counseling (HTC) programs have become an important part of the healthcare system in South Africa and other low- and middle-income countries with a high HIV prevalence and strained primary healthcare system. Current HTC programs excel at identifying people living with…

This issue of the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society's "HIV Nursing Matters" online magazine focuses on vulnerable populations, including TB in prisons and intimate partner violence in the context of HIV.

This issue of the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society's "HIV Nursing Matters" online magazine focuses on key populations.


Attrition along the HIV care continuum slows gains in mitigating the South African HIV epidemic. Understanding population-level gaps in HIV identification, linkage, retention in care and viral suppression is critical to target programming.


The goal of virtual elimination of horizontal and mother-to-child HIV transmission in South Africa (SA) has been proposed, but there have been few systematic investigations of which interventions are likely to be most critical to reducing HIV incidence.

Many countries are working to reduce or eliminate mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV. Prevention efforts have been conceptualized as steps in a cascade but cascade completion rates during and after pregnancy are low.

Achieving the promise of antiretroviral therapy (ART) to reduce HIV-associated mortality and transmission in sub-Saharan Africa relies on increasing behavioral change toward earlier engagement and sustained retention in HIV care after HIV diagnosis. Health communication may be an…

With the goal of eliminating new HIV infections, UNAIDS set the ambitious 90-90-90 targets to be achieved by 2020. We assessed whether these targets are being met among participants of the HIV Incidence Provincial Surveillance System (HIPSS) in a high-burden district of South Africa.