HIV self-testing effective for reaching MSM in China

17 September 2014
An HIV ribbon

Self-testing for HIV can be an effective way of increasing uptake of HIV testing and reaching high risk sub-groups of men who have sex with men (MSM) in China. An online survey conducted in China, found that 20.3 percent of MSM in the country had self-tested for HIV at least once in their lives. According to researchers, this represents a relatively high number of MSM self-testing, and they state that there is significant opportunity to improve up-take of testing among these at risk populations.

Self-testing for HIV can reduce many of the barriers associated with testing for HIV, particularly in a facility-based setting. These barriers include a fear of stigmatisation, lack of privacy and confidentiality, and the general inconvenience of going to a testing centre. In China, HIV testing is mostly located in centralised and formal healthcare settings – indicative as to why HIV self-testing uptake among MSM is relatively high in this study. The researchers found that self-testing among MSM was significantly correlated with being married; having tested for HIV in the past 12 months; and having had anal sex with more than six partners in the past three months. This behaviour suggests that self-testing can reach high-risk MSM, and increase HIV testing frequency.

Latest figures from UNAIDS estimate that around 54 percent of people living with HIV around the world do not know their status, around 19 million of the 35 million. Increasing access and uptake of HIV testing is crucial, as testing is a vital gateway to HIV services and life-saving antiretroviral treatment (ART). Just under half of MSM in China have never tested for HIV. It is therefore vital that innovative approaches to improve uptake of HIV testing among key populations are explored, in combination with the expansion of self-testing in the Chinese context.

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