Acceptability, perceived reliability and challenges associated with distributing HIV self-test kits to young MSM in Uganda:
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Introduction: HIV self-testing is a flexible, accessible and acceptable emerging technology with a particular potential to identify people living with HIV who are reluctant to interact with conventional HIV testing approaches. We assessed the accept- ability, perceived reliability and challenges associated with distributing HIV self-test (HIVST) to young men who have sex with men (MSM) in Uganda. Methods: Between February and May 2018, we enrolled 74 MSM aged ≥18 years purposively sampled and verbally consented to participate in six focus group discussions (FGDs) in The AIDS Support Organization (TASO Masaka and Entebbe). We also conducted two FGDs of 18 health workers. MSM FGD groups included individuals who had; (1) tested greater than one year previously; (2) tested between six months and one year previously; (3) tested three to six months previously; (4) never tested. FGDs examined: (i) the acceptability of HIVST distribution; (iii) preferences for various HIVST distribution channels; (iv) perceptions about the accuracy of HIVST; (v) challenges associated with HIVST distribution. We identified major themes, developed and refined a codebook. We used Nvivo version 11 for data management. Results: MSM participants age ranged between 19 and 30 years. Participants described HIVST as a mechanism that would facilitate HIV testing uptake in a rapid, efficient, confidential, non-painful; and non-stigmatizing manner. Overall, MSM preferred HIVST to the conventional HIV testing approaches. Health workers were in support of distributing HIVST kits through MSM peers. MSM participants were willing to distribute the kits and recommended HIVST to their peers and sexual partners. They suggested HIVST kit distribution model work similarly to the current condom and lubricant peer model being implemented by TASO. Preferred channels were peers, hot spots, drop-in centres, private pharmacies and MSM friendly health facilities. Key concerns regarding use of HIVST were; unreliable HIVST results, social harm due to a positive result, need for a confirmatory test and linking both HIV positive and negative participants for additional HIV services. Conclusions: Distribution of HIVST kits by MSM peers is an acceptable strategy that can promote access to testing. HIVST was perceived by participants as beneficial because it would address many barriers that affect their acceptance of testing. However, a combined approach that includes follow-up, linkage to HIV care and prevention services are needed for effective results.
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