Can HIV self-testing reach first-time testers? A telephone survey among self-test end users in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Senegal
Arsène Kouassi Kra, Arlette Simo Fotso, Kouassi Noël N’guessan, Olivier Geoffroy, Sidibé Younoussa, Odé Kanku Kabemba, Papa Alioune Gueye, Pauline Dama Ndeye, Nicolas Rouveau, Marie-Claude Boily, Romain Silhol, Marc d’Elbée, Mathieu Maheu-Giroux, Anthony Vautier & Joseph Larmarange on behalf of the ATLAS team
Coverage of HIV testing remains sub-optimal in West Africa. Between 2019 and 2022, the ATLAS program distributed 400 000 oral HIV self-tests (HIVST) in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Senegal, prioritising female sex workers (FSW) and men having sex with men (MSM), and relying on secondary redistribution of HIVST to partners, peers and clients to reach individuals not tested through conventional testing. This study assesses the proportion of first-time testers among HIVST users and the associated factors.
A phone-based survey was implemented among HIVST users recruited using dedicated leaflets inviting them to anonymously call a free phone number. We collected socio-demographics, sexual behaviours, HIV testing history, HIVST use, and satisfaction with HIVST. We reported the proportion of first-time testers and computed associated factors using logistic regression.
Between March and June 2021, 2 615 participants were recruited for 50 940 distributed HIVST (participation rate: 5.1%). Among participants, 30% received their HIVST kit through secondary distribution (from a friend, sexual partner, family member, or colleague).
The proportion who had never tested for HIV before HIVST (first-time testers) was 41%. The main factors associated with being a first-time tester were sex, age group, education level, condom use, and secondary distribution. A higher proportion was observed among those aged 24 years or less (55% vs 32% for 25–34, aOR: 0.37 [95%CI: 0.30–0.44], and 26% for 35 years or more, aOR: 0.28 [0.21–0.37]); those less educated (48% for none/primary education vs 45% for secondary education, aOR: 0.60 [0.47–0.77], and 29% for higher education, aOR: 0.33 [0.25–0.44]). A lower proportion was observed among women (37% vs 43%, aOR: 0.49 [0.40–0.60]); those reporting always using a condom over the last year (36% vs 51% for those reporting never using them, aOR: 2.02 [1.59–2.56]); and those who received their HISVST kit through primary distribution (39% vs 46% for secondary distribution, aOR: 1.32 [1.08–1.60]).
ATLAS HIVST strategy, including secondary distribution, successfully reached a significant proportion of first-time testers. HIVST has the potential to reach underserved populations and contribute to the expansion of HIV testing services in West Africa.