Thirty years into the HIV epidemic, many people who are at high risk of HIV infection cannot or will not adopt safer sexual practices, such as abstinence and condom use. This means there is room in the market for alternative methods to reduce either exposure to or transmission of HIV among these individuals. One such strategy, HIV home testing (HT), is the subject of a recent study by Alex Carballo-Dieguez and his colleagues at the HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies at New York. Their work appears online in the journal AIDS and Behavior published by Springer.
A number of biomedical strategies for the prevention of HIV transmission are being developed, many of which are costly and have limited success. Although rapid HIV tests have been available for some time, their potential as a screening tool for possible partners has not yet been studied. And now the possibility of screening partners is a reality with recent FDA approval of HT. Would individuals who choose to have unprotected sex be willing to use them and/or would they ask potential casual partners to take the tests before having unprotected sex?
Twenty-seven ethnically diverse men who have sex with men (MSM) completed the study. They were each given 16 HT kits to use with prospective sexual partners and were monitored weekly for three months and then interviewed in depth. Overall, the HT kits had a high level of acceptability with all men, including ethnic minority MSM, whose infection rates are high. Most men in the study wanted to continue to use these kits and to be able to buy them over the counter.