Sokhna Boye, Seydou Bouaré, Odette Ky-Zerbo, Nicolas Rouveau, Arlette Simo Fotso, Marc d’Elbée, Romain Silhol, Abdelaye Keita, Anne Bekelynck, Alice Desclaux, Joseph Larmarange and Dolorès Pourette for the ATLAS team
BACKGROUND: In Côte d’’Ivoire, Mali and Senegal, ATLAS project has introduced HIV self-testing (HIVST) as an index testing strategy, distributing HIVST kits to people living with HIV (PLHIV) during consultations for secondary distribution to their partners. Here, we present preliminary results of an ethnographic survey conducted in one HIV clinic in Bamako, Mali, where most HIV patients have not disclosed their HIV status to their partner(s), notably for women for fear of jeopardizing their relationships. In such a context, how non-disclosure affect the distribution of HIVST kits?
METHODS: The study was conducted from September 25 to November 27, 2019, and included individual interviews with 8 health workers; 591 observations of medical consultations; and 7 observations of patient groups discussions led by peer educators.
RESULTS: Three principal barriers to HIVST distribution for index testing were identified. (1) Reluctance of PLHIV to offer HIVST to partners to whom they have not (yet) disclosed their status and desire to learn tactics for offering testing without disclosing their HIV status. (2) Near-universal hesitancy among health workers to offer HIVST to persons who, they believe, have not disclosed their HIV status to their partner(s). (3) Absence of strategies, among health workers, to support discussion of status disclosure with PLHIV. In the rare cases where HIVST was offered to a PLHIV whose partner did not know their status, either the PLHIV declined the offer or the provider left it to the patient to find a way to deliver the HIVST without disclosing his/her status.
CONCLUSIONS: HIV self-testing distribution could serve as an opportunity for PLHIV to disclose their HIV status to partners. The continuing reluctance of PLHIV to heed advice to share their status and promote secondary HIV self-testing distribution highlights the structural factors (social inequalities and stigma) that limit awareness of HIV status and that favour the persistence of the epidemic.
Boye Sokhna, Bouaré Seydou, Ky-Zerbo Odette, Rouveau Nicolas, Simo Fotso Arlette, d'Elbée Marc, Silhol Romain, Keita Adbelaye, Bekelynck Anne, Desclaux Alice, Larmarange Joseph, Pourette Dolorès and ATLAS Team (2020) “Challenges of HIV self-tests distribution for index testing in a context where HIV status disclosure is low: preliminary experience of the ATLAS project in Bamako, Mali” (poster PED1255), presented at the 23rd AIDS International Conference, San Francisco (virtual). https://cattendee.abstractsonline.com/meeting/9289/Presentation/2271.