“If it is left, it becomes easy for me to get tested”: Use of oral self‐tests and community health workers to maximize the potential of home‐based HIV testing among adolescents in Lesotho
Home‐based HIV testing fails to reach high coverage among adolescents and young adults (AYA), mainly because they are often absent during the day of home‐based testing. ADORE (ADolescent ORal tEsting) is a mixed‐method nested study among AYA in rural Lesotho, measuring the effect of home‐based secondary distribution of oral HIV self‐tests (HIVST) on coverage, as well as exploring how AYA perceive this HIV self‐testing model.
ADORE study was nested in a cluster‐randomized trial. In intervention village‐clusters, oral HIVST were left for household members who were absent or declined testing during a testing campaign. One present household member was trained on HIVST use. Distributed HIVST were followed up by village health workers (VHW). In control clusters no self‐tests were distributed. The quantitative outcome was testing coverage among AYA (age 12 to 24) within 120 days, defined as a confirmed HIV test result or known status, using adjusted random‐effects logistic regression on the intention‐to‐treat population. Qualitatively, we conducted in‐depth interviews among both AYA who used and did not use the distributed HIVST.
From July 2018 to December 2018, 49 and 57 villages with 1471 and 1620 consenting households and 1236 and 1445 AYA in the control and intervention arm, respectively, were enrolled. On the day of the home‐visit, a testing coverage of 37% (461/1236) and 41% (596/1445) in the control and the intervention arm, respectively, were achieved. During the 120 days follow‐up period, an additional 23 and 490 AYA in control and intervention clusters, respectively, knew their status. This resulted in a testing coverage of 484/1236 (39%) in the control versus 1086/1445 (75%) in the intervention arm (aOR 8.80 [95% CI 5.81 to 13.32]; p < 0.001). 21 interviews were performed. Personal assistance after the secondary distribution emerged as a key theme and VHWs were generally seen as a trusted cadre.
Secondary distribution of HIVST for AYA absent or refusing to test during home‐based testing in Lesotho resulted in an absolute 36% increase in coverage. Distribution should, however, go along with clear instructions on the use of the HIVST and a possibility to easily access more personal support.