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Acceptability and usability of HIV self-tests in two European countries: findings from surveys of clients at non-governmental organisations in Lithuania and Italy

Authors
  • Nash, Sophie G.1
  • Maffeo, Manuel2
  • Likatavicius, Giedrius3
  • Cosmaro, Lella4
  • Rudaitis, Kestutis3
  • Lapsinov, Aleksandras3
  • Enayat, Qudsia1
  • Delpech, Valerie1
  • Kall, Meaghan1
  • 1 Blood Safety, Hepatitis, STI and HIV division, National Infection Service, Public Health England,
  • 2 Arcigay - Associazione LGBTI Italiana, Bologna, Italy
  • 3 Demetra, Vilnius, Lithuania
  • 4 Fondazione LILA Milano – Italian League for Fighting AIDS, Milan, Italy
Type
Published Article
Journal
BMC Infectious Diseases
Publisher
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
Sep 13, 2021
Volume
21
Issue
Suppl 2
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1186/s12879-021-06442-8
PMID: 34517818
PMCID: PMC8438811
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Research
License
Unknown

Abstract

Background Uptake of HIV self-tests (HIVST) remains low in Europe. We conducted two separate surveys to understand facilitators and barriers to the use of HIVST in two European countries, as part of the EU INTEGRATE Joint Action. In both countries, HIV has been legal since 2016. In Lithuania, where HIVST sales have been low, the survey primarily assessed acceptability whilst in Italy, with better HIVST uptake, usability was the focus. Methods Participants were recruited through community HIV testing sites, and in Lithuania also through social media. In Lithuania, participants self-completed a survey on their testing history, and attitudes toward and experiences with self-testing. In Italy participants performed an HIVST (Mylan Autotest) while being observed by a community health worker (CHW). Both participants and CHW completed a self-administered survey evaluating the experience of the participant. Results In Lithuania, awareness of HIV self-testing (75%) was high among the 138 people who completed the survey. Privacy and confidentiality (70%) was the most common reason to use an HIVST whilst cost was reported as the main barrier by 60%, only 15% were willing to pay the current price. Almost half (42%) were concerned about doing the test incorrectly and 36% preferred that a trained person could discuss their result. Purchasing HIVST at a pharmacy (70%) or online (61%) was favoured and 68% would opt to simultaneously test for other infections. In Italy, 28 people who had never used an HIVST before were observed using one. 43% found the test easy to use but CHWs reported that 36% of participants failed at least one step. The quick result (68%) was the most common reason to use one again, yet the main concerns were the lack of counselling (50%) and reading result alone (32%). Conclusions HIVST are acceptable and usable, however cost is a major barrier. Local and national strategies are needed to increase awareness of and access to HIVST and target HIVST campaigns toward key risk groups such as MSM. Meanwhile, steps can be taken to improve testing instructions and support for self-testers. Offering multiplex testing for other infections would also likely increase uptake.

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