Could using a home-based kit increase HIV testing?

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Researchers from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LA, USA) have discovered that 86% of heterosexuals at high-risk for HIV would use a home-based testing kit sent by post. In addition, 99% of this group reported that they would seek treatment on a positive result. The self-administered test may lead to quicker treatment, and provide a new strategy for diagnosing an overlooked group.

Lead author, William Robinson, from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center , commented: “In 2014, 24% of new HIV infections were attributed to heterosexual activity, yet many at-risk individuals do not test routinely or have never been tested.”
The study, published recently in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, therefore aimed to assess the feasibility of a new self-testing kit, which would be delivered to participants by mail.

The team carried out a survey of 470 individuals as part of New Orleans (LA, USA) arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National HIV Behavioral Surveillance of Heterosexuals at increased risk for HIV study in 2013. Participants were required to be over the age of 18, residents of New Orleans, able to take the survey in English and have had a sexual partner of the opposite sex within the previous 12 months.

When the researchers analyzed the results they discovered that 85.56% of participants reported that they would take the home-based test if it was provided via mail by health department or research center, moreover, of these individuals, 54.19% reported that they would return their results to the provider.

Of the remaining participants, the majority of this group reported that they would prefer to only share their test results with their doctor and only 8 participants stated they would not share the results with anyone.

Although the data was self-reported – a clear limitation of the study – the researchers argue that these findings could provide a method for advancing the National HIV/AIDS strategy. Further research will be needed on the epidemiological context, in addition to assessing ethical and logistical considerations.
Robinson concluded “Our findings demonstrate that home-based testing could be an effective means to reach some heterosexuals who have never been tested.”
Sources: Robinson WT, Zarwell M & Gruber D. Preferences for Home-Based HIV Testing Among Heterosexuals at Increased Risk for HIV/AIDS: New Orleans, Louisiana, 2013. JAIDS. 75, S352–S356 (2017); www.lsuhsc.edu/newsroom/LSUHealthNO%20Research%20Finds%20Home-Based%20Kit%20Would%20Increase%20HIV%20Testing.html

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