New research suggests a smartphone app could be the critical link between at-home HIV testing and rapid access to care for people whose tests come back positive. At-home rapid HIV testing has been available in the US since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the OraQuick device in 2012. However, other countries including Canada have yet to allow at-home testing.
Researchers at McGill University, Montreal, wanted to gauge the potential of home testing for high-risk populations, especially men who have sex with men (MSM). However, they also wanted to combat a potential flaw of at-home testing—patients who test positive for HIV but may be unwilling or unable to seek medical care. Nikita Pant Pai, MD, MPH, PhD, the study’s lead author, wrote that current tests on the market don’t do enough for people who find out they are HIV-positive.
“Currently approved HIV self-tests offer toll-free lines that are insufficient for initiating expedited linkages to counseling and care, accurate interpretation, and support during HIV self-testing,” Pant Pai and colleagues noted.
To combat that problem, they developed an application that could work on a smartphone or tablet, called HIVSmart! The app walks patients through the testing process, helps interpret the results, and then links HIV-positive patients with counseling or healthcare while also providing encouragement. Read more via MDMag
An Unsupervised Smart App–Optimized HIV Self-Testing Program in Montreal, Canada: Cross-Sectional Study
Pant Pai N, Smallwood M, Desjardins L, Goyette A, Birkas KG, Vassal AF, Joseph L, Thomas R. An Unsupervised Smart App–Optimized HIV Self-Testing Program in Montreal, Canada: Cross-Sectional Study. J Med Internet Res 2018;20(11):e10258. URL: https://www.jmir.org/2018/11/e10258
Background: Although HIV self-testing strategies have been recommended by the World Health Organization, HIV self-tests are not yet approved in Canada. Currently approved HIV self-tests offer toll-free lines that are insufficient for initiating expedited linkages to counseling and care, accurate interpretation, and support during HIV self-testing. We developed an innovative, multilingual software app called HIVSmart! to plug these gaps.
Conclusions: The HIVSmart! app-optimized strategy was feasible, accepted, and preferred by an educated, urban MSM population of Montreal. With the app, participants were able to perform, interpret, store results, and get rapidly linked to care. The HIVSmart!-optimized, self-testing strategy could be adapted and contextualized to many at-risk populations within Canada and worldwide, thereby maximizing its public health impact.