Background: Uptake of HIV self-tests (HIVST) remains low in Europe. We conducted two separate surveys to understand facilitators and barriers to the use of HIVST in two European countries, as part of the EU INTEGRATE Joint Action. In both countries, HIV has been legal since 2016. In Lithuania, where HIVST sales have been low, the survey primarily assessed acceptability whilst in Italy, with better HIVST uptake, usability was the focus.
Methods: Participants were recruited through community HIV testing sites, and in Lithuania also through social media. In Lithuania, participants self-completed a survey on their testing history, and attitudes toward and experiences with self-testing. In Italy participants performed an HIVST (Mylan Autotest) while being observed by a community health worker (CHW). Both participants and CHW completed a self-administered survey evaluating the experience of the participant.
Results: In Lithuania, awareness of HIV self-testing (75%) was high among the 138 people who completed the survey. Privacy and confidentiality (70%) was the most common reason to use an HIVST whilst cost was reported as the main barrier by 60%, only 15% were willing to pay the current price. Almost half (42%) were concerned about doing the test incorrectly and 36% preferred that a trained person could discuss their result. Purchasing HIVST at a pharmacy (70%) or online (61%) was favoured and 68% would opt to simultaneously test for other infections. In Italy, 28 people who had never used an HIVST before were observed using one. 43% found the test easy to use but CHWs reported that 36% of participants failed at least one step. The quick result (68%) was the most common reason to use one again, yet the main concerns were the lack of counselling (50%) and reading result alone (32%).
Conclusions: HIVST are acceptable and usable, however cost is a major barrier. Local and national strategies are needed to increase awareness of and access to HIVST and target HIVST campaigns toward key risk groups such as MSM. Meanwhile, steps can be taken to improve testing instructions and support for self-testers. Offering multiplex testing for other infections would also likely increase uptake.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information: The research reported was supported by the Joint Action INTEGRATE, funded by the European Union’s 3rd Health Programme for Research and Innovation (Grant Agreement No: 761319).
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Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s), 2021.
Citation: Nash, S.G., Maffeo, M., Likatavicius, G. et al. Acceptability and usability of HIV self-tests in two European countries: findings from surveys of clients at non-governmental organisations in Lithuania and Italy. BMC Infect Dis 21, 844 (2021).
- HIV testing