Promoting male partner HIV testing and safer sexual decision making through secondary distribution of self-tests by HIV-negative female sex workers and women receiving antenatal and post-partum care in Kenya: a cohort study
Background Increased uptake of HIV testing by men in sub-Saharan Africa is essential for the success of combination prevention. Self-testing is an emerging approach with high acceptability, but little evidence exists on the best strategies for test distribution. We assessed an approach of providing multiple self-tests to women at high risk of HIV acquisition to promote partner HIV testing and to facilitate safer sexual decision making.
Methods In this cohort study, HIV-negative women aged 18-39 years were recruited at two sites in Kisumu, Kenya: a health facility with antenatal and post-partum clinics and a drop-in centre for female sex workers. Participants gave informed consent and were instructed on use of oral fluid based rapid HIV tests. Participants enrolled at the health facility received three self-tests and those at the drop-in centre received five self-tests. Structured interviews were conducted with participants at enrolment and over 3 months to determine how self-tests were used. Outcomes included the number of self-tests distributed by participants, the proportion of participants whose sexual partners used a self-test, couples testing, and sexual behaviour after self-testing.
Findings Between Jan 14, 2015, and March 13, 2015, 280 participants were enrolled (61 in antenatal care, 117 in postpartum care, and 102 female sex workers); follow-up interviews were completed for 265 (96%). Most participants with primary sexual partners distributed self-tests to partners: 53 (91%) of 58 participants in antenatal care, 91 (86%) of 106 in post-partum care, and 64 (75%) of 85 female sex workers. 82 (81%) of 101 female sex workers distributed more than one self-test to commercial sex clients. Among self-tests distributed to and used by primary sexual partners of participants, couples testing occurred in 27 (51%) of 53 in antenatal care, 62 (68%) of 91 from post-partum care, and 53 (83%) of 64 female sex workers. Among tests received by primary and non-primary sexual partners, two (4%) of 53 tests from participants in antenatal care, two (2%) of 91 in post-partum care, and 41 (14%) of 298 from female sex workers had positive results. Participants reported sexual intercourse with 235 (62%) of 380 sexual partners who tested HIV-negative, compared with eight (18%) of 45 who tested HIV-positive (p
Interpretation Provision of multiple HIV self-tests to women at high risk of HIV infection was successful in promoting HIV testing among their sexual partners and in facilitating safer sexual decisions. This novel strategy warrants further consideration as countries develop self-testing policies and programmes.