Burma: High uptake of HIV self-testing by men who have sex with men and transgender women

HIV self-testing is feasible and acceptable for men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women (TGW), engaging more people than usual testing services, according to the results of a randomised trial in Burma presented to the 25th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2018) in Boston this week. 

The HIV epidemic in Burma disproportionately affects key populations, including MSM and TGW. The HIV prevalence in these populations is estimated to be 12% but may be as high as 27% in Rangoon, the city where the study was done. Only one in five has ever been tested and access to other healthcare services, including HIV treatment, is also poor.

Earlier qualitative research with MSM and TGW in Burma suggested that self-testing would be acceptable because of its confidentiality and privacy. As neither sexual behaviour nor HIV status would need to be disclosed, participants felt it could help them avoid stigma. While self-testing was expected to be convenient, there was some concern that provision would not include counselling and linkage to care.

In the randomised trial, HIV-negative MSM and TGW were recruited by getting the first recruits to refer their social contacts and peers to the study, with those individuals, in turn, referring people they knew and so on (respondent-driven sampling). Read more via AIDSmap