HIV self-testing as part of a differentiated HIV testing approach: exploring urban and rural adult experiences from KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa using a cross-over study design
BACKGROUND: Suboptimal HIV testing rates through available testing approaches such as HIV counselling and testing have directed research efforts toward recognizing the potential of HIV self-testing as an additional testing method. However, HIV self-testing is not readily available within HIV testing facilities and data on how HIV self-testing and HIV counselling and testing will co-exist within HIV testing facilities is limited. Therefore, this study sought to fill this knowledge gap.
METHODS: Forty consenting adults were exposed to HIV counselling and testing and HIV self-testing using a cross-over study design between February 2016 and February 2017 resulting in 80 (20,20) interviews. Participants were randomly exposed to HIV counselling and testing first, followed by self-testing, or HIV self-testing first, followed by counselling and testing. In-depth interviews were conducted at baseline, and after each testing exposure, using a semi-structured interview guide. Interviews were transcribed and translated prior to doing the framework analysis.
RESULTS: Support through counselling played a central role in the HIV testing process for some participants who desired support or were not confident to perform unsupervised HIV self-testing. The complementary relationship between HIV self-testing and HIV counselling and testing requires a combination of benefits such as availability of counselling, confidence, convenience and confidentiality (4 Cs) derived from HIV self-testing and HIV counselling and testing. Implementation of the 4 Cs will depend on the availability of unsupervised HIV self-testing and/or supervised self-testing with support from HIV counselling and testing.
CONCLUSIONS: As treatment and prevention efforts expand, the reasons for and frequency of testing is changing and there is a need to develop differentiated models for providing HIV testing services to meet client's needs. HIV self-testing is an important addition to enhance HIV testing efforts and should be offered in combination with HCT.