BMC Public Health

Describing, analysing and understanding the effects of the introduction of HIV self-testing in West Africa through the ATLAS programme in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Senegal


Protocol paper of the ATLAS project.


Nicolas Rouveau, Odette Ky-Zerbo, Sokhna Boye, Arlette Simo Fotso, Marc d’Elbée, Mathieu Maheu-Giroux, Romain Silhol, Arsène Kra Kouassi, Anthony Vautier, Clémence Doumenc-Aïdara, Guillaume Breton, Abdelaye Keita, Eboi Ehui, Cheikh Tidiane Ndour, Marie-Claude Boilly, Fern Terris-Prestholt, Dolorès Pourette, Alice Desclaux, Joseph Larmarange for the ATLAS Team



The ATLAS programme aims to promote and implement HIV self-testing (HIVST) in three West African countries: Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Senegal. During 2019–2021, in close collaboration with the national AIDS implementing partners and communities, ATLAS plans to distribute 500,000 HIVST kits through eight delivery channels, combining facility-based, community-based strategies, primary and secondary distribution of HIVST.

Considering the characteristics of West African HIV epidemics, the targets of the ATLAS programme are hard-to-reach populations: key populations (female sex workers, men who have sex with men, and drug users), their clients or sexual partners, partners of people living with HIV and patients diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections and their partners.

The ATLAS programme includes research support implementation to generate evidence for HIVST scale-up in West Africa.

The main objective is to describe, analyse and understand the social, health, epidemiological effects and cost-effectiveness of HIVST introduction in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Senegal to improve the overall HIV testing strategy (accessibility, efficacy, ethics).


ATLAS research is organised into five multidisciplinary workpackages (WPs):

  • Key Populations WP: qualitative surveys (individual in-depth interviews, focus group discussions) conducted with key actors, key populations, and HIVST users.
  • Index testing WP: ethnographic observation of three HIV care services introducing HIVST for partner testing.
  • Coupons survey WP: an anonymous telephone survey of HIVST users.
  • Cost study WP: incremental economic cost analysis of each delivery model using a top-down costing with programmatic data, complemented by a bottom-up costing of a representative sample of HIVST distribution sites, and a time-motion study for health professionals providing HIVST.
  • Modelling WP: Adaptation, parameterisation and calibration of a dynamic compartmental model that considers the varied populations targeted by the ATLAS programme and the different testing modalities and strategies.


ATLAS is the first comprehensive study on HIV self-testing in West Africa. The ATLAS programme focuses particularly on the secondary distribution of HIVST. This protocol was approved by three national ethic committees and the WHO’s Ethical Research Committee.