Women’s Health

Willingness to use and distribute HIV self-test kits to clients and partners: A qualitative analysis of female sex workers’ collective opinion and attitude in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Senegal



Odette Ky-Zerbo, Alice Desclaux, Sokhna Boye, Anthony Vautier, Nicolas Rouveau, Brou Alexis Kouadio, Arlette Simo Fotso, Dolorès Pourette, Mathieu Maheu-Giroux, Souleymane Sow, Cheick Sidi Camara, Clémence Doumenc-Aïdara, Abdelaye Keita, Marie Claude Boily, Romain Silhol, Marc d’Elbée, Anne Bekelynck, Papa Alioune Gueye, Papa Moussa Diop, Olivier Geoffroy, Odé Kanku Kamemba, Sanata Diallo, Eboi Ehui, Cheick Tidiane Ndour, Joseph Larmarange, for the ATLAS team


Background: In West Africa, female sex workers are at increased risk of HIV acquisition and transmission. HIV self-testing could be an effective tool to improve access to and frequency of HIV testing to female sex workers, their clients and partners. This article explores their perceptions regarding HIV self-testing use and the redistribution of HIV self-testing kits to their partners and clients.

Methods: Embedded within ATLAS, a qualitative study was conducted in Côte-d’Ivoire, Mali, and Senegal in 2020. Nine focus group discussions were conducted. A thematic analysis was performed.

Results: A total of 87 participants expressed both positive attitudes toward HIV self-testing and their willingness to use or reuse HIV self-testing. HIV self-testing was perceived to be discreet, confidential, and convenient. HIV self-testing provides autonomy from testing by providers and reduces stigma. Some perceived HIV self-testing as a valuable tool for testing their clients who are willing to offer a premium for condomless sex. While highlighting some potential issues, overall, female sex workers were optimistic about linkage to confirmatory testing following a reactive HIV self-testing. Female sex workers expressed positive attitudes toward secondary distribution to their partners and clients, although it depended on relationship types. They seemed more enthusiastic about secondary distribution to their regular/emotional partners and regular clients with whom they had difficulty using condoms, and whom they knew enough to discuss HIV self-testing. However, they expressed that it could be more difficult with casual clients; the duration of the interaction being too short to discuss HIV self-testing, and they fear violence and/or losing them.

Conclusion: Overall, female sex workers have positive attitudes toward HIV self-testing use and are willing to redistribute to their regular partners and clients. However, they are reluctant to promote such use with their casual clients. HIV self-testing can improve access to HIV testing for female sex workers and the members of their sexual and social network.

Keywords: ATLAS, female sex workers, HIV self-testing, partners, perception, secondary distribution, West Africa