Early data from STAR, the largest study yet of HIV self-testing, suggests that there is a strong demand for self-testing in rural Zimbabwe, the 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016) heard this week. Other studies examined whether self-testing kits can help the male partners of pregnant women to test and whether such use might sometimes be coercive.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines HIV self-testing as “a process in which an individual who wants to know his or her HIV status collects a specimen, performs a test and interprets the result by him or herself, often in private”. By giving people the opportunity to test discreetly and conveniently, HIV self-testing may increase the uptake of HIV testing among people not reached by other HIV testing services, including people who have never taken a test.
The STAR project is is aiming to explore a range of distribution methods in order to understand their effectiveness in reaching end-users and facilitating linkage to care. The four year project aims to ‘catalyse’ the market for HIV self-testing and generate evidence on the feasibility, acceptability, scalability, costs and cost-effectiveness of different approaches.
As well as influencing WHO guidance and national policies, the project aims to help companies and policy makers understand the size of the market for HIV self-testing – this could encourage manufacturers to invest more in this area.