South Africa: Encouraging results in self-testing study with men who have sex with men

In Gert Sibande and Ehlanzeni, two districts to the east of Johannesburg in South Africa, a study was conducted to see if HIV self-testing is feasible among men who have sex with men.

A total of 127 men who have sex with men enrolled, two-thirds of whom were aged 18-24. Half only had primary or secondary school education and only 31% had had paid work in the past six months.

Two-thirds described themselves as bisexual – 83% had a regular male partner and 51% a regular female partner.

The study was not randomised and all participants were offered self-test kits. They were given a demonstration of two different kits – the OraQuick oral fluid test used in the Burmese study and the AtomoRapid device which has a built-in lancet and tests fingerprick blood. They were asked to choose the type of test they would like to take home.

Although it’s commonly reported that oral fluid tests are more popular, in this setting participants most commonly chose the fingerprick blood test. The researchers attribute this to familiarity with these tests from public clinics and also due to confusion about the difference between virus and antibody detection (a number of men asked counsellors how HIV would be detected in saliva if the virus cannot be transmitted through kissing). Read more via AIDSmap