In South Africa, HIV-infected men are less likely than women to test and know their status (the first UNAIDS “90-90-90” target), and men have worse outcomes across the HIV care cascade. HIV self-testing (HIVST) may address this testing disparity but questions remain over the most effective distribution strategy and linkage following a positive test result. We implemented a men-focused HIVST distribution programme to evaluate components contributing to participation and retention.
We conducted an implementation study of multi-venue HIVST kit distribution in rural and peri-urban KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), South Africa. We distributed HIVST kits at community points, workplaces and social venues for on site or take-home use. Clients could choose blood-based or oral-fluid-based HIVST kits and elect to watch an in-person or video demonstration. We provided a USD2 incentive to facilitate reporting test results by phone or SMS. Persons with reactive HIVST results were provided immediate confirmatory tests (if used HIVST on site) or were referred for confirmatory testing (if took HIVST off site) and linkage to care for ART initiation. We describe the testing and linkage cascade in this sample and describe predictors of reactive HIVST results and linkage.
Between July and November 2018, we distributed 4496 HIVST kits in two regions of KZN (96% to men, median age 28 (IQR 23 to 35). Most participants (58%) chose blood-based HIVST and 42% chose oral-swab kits. 11% of men were testing for the first time. A total of 3902 (83%) of testers reported their test result to the study team, with 314 (8%) screening positive for HIV. Among 274 men with reactive HIVST results, 68% linked to ART; no significant predictors of linkage were identified. 10% of kit users reported they would prefer a different type (oral vs. blood) of kit for repeat testing than the type they used.
HIVST is acceptable to men and rapid distribution with optional testing support is feasible in rural and peri-urban settings. HIVST kits successfully reached younger men and identified undetected infections. Both oral and blood-based HIVST were selected. Scaling up HIVST distribution and guidance may increase the number of first-time testers among men and help achieve the first UNAIDS “90” for men in South Africa.