BMC Infectious Diseases

“I take it and give it to my partners who will give it to their partners”: Secondary distribution of HIV self-tests by key populations in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Senegal



Odette Ky-Zerbo, Alice Desclaux, Sokhna Boye, Mathieu Maheu-Giroux, Nicolas Rouveau, Anthony Vautier, Cheick Sidi Camara, Brou Alexis Kouadio, Souleymane Sow, Clémence Doumenc-Aidara, Papa Alioune Gueye, Olivier Geoffroy, Odé Kanku Kamemba, Eboi Ehui, Cheick Tidiane Ndour, Abdelaye Keita & Joseph Larmarange for the ATLAS team



HIV epidemics in Western and Central Africa (WCA) remain concentrated among key populations, who are often unaware of their status. HIV self-testing (HIVST) and its secondary distribution among key populations, and their partners and relatives, could reduce gaps in diagnosis coverage.

We aimed to document and understand secondary HIVST distribution practices by men who have sex with men (MSM), female sex workers (FSW), people who use drugs (PWUD); and the use of HIVST by their networks in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Senegal.


A qualitative study was conducted in 2021 involving (a) face-to-face interviews with MSM, FSW, and PWUD who received HIVST kits from peer educators (primary users) and (b) telephone interviews with people who received kits from primary contacts (secondary users). These individual interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and coded using Dedoose software. Thematic analysis was performed.


A total of 89 participants, including 65 primary users and 24 secondary users were interviewed. Results showed that HIVST were effectively redistributed through peers and key populations networks. The main reported motivations for HIVST distribution included allowing others to access testing and protecting oneself by verifying the status of partners/clients. The main barrier to distribution was the fear of sexual partners’ reactions. Findings suggest that members of key populations raised awareness of HIVST and referred those in need of HIVST to peer educators. One FSW reported physical abuse.

Secondary users generally completed HIVST within two days of receiving the kit. The test was used half the times in the physical presence of another person, partly for psychological support need. Users who reported a reactive test sought confirmatory testing and were linked to care. Some participants mentioned difficulties in collecting the biological sample (2 participants) and interpreting the result (4 participants).


The redistribution of HIVST was common among key populations, with minor negative attitudes. Users encountered few difficulties using the kits. Reactive test cases were generally confirmed. These secondary distribution practices support the deployment of HIVST to key populations, their partners, and other relatives. In similar WCA countries, members of key populations can assist in the distribution of HIVST, contributing to closing HIV diagnosis gaps.