Sigma Research

HIV self-testing among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the UK: A qualitative study of barriers and facilitators, intervention preferences and perceived impacts

PLoS ONE, 2016; 11(9): e0162713 (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0162713).

Authors: T. Charles Witzel, Alison J. Rodger, Fiona M. Burns, Tim Rhodes, Peter Weatherburn


Introduction: Innovative strategies, such as HIV self-testing (HIVST), could increase HIV testing rates and diagnosis. Evidence to inform the design of an HIVST intervention in the UK is scarce with very little European data on this topic. This study aims to understand values and preferences for HIVST interventions targeting MSM in the UK. We explore the acceptability of HIVST among MSM in the context of known barriers and facilitators to testing for HIV; assess preferences for, and the concerns about, HIVST.

Methods: Six focus group discussions (FGD) were conducted with 47 MSM in London, Manchester and Plymouth. HIVST as a concept was discussed and participants were asked to construct their ideal HIVST intervention. OraQuickTM and BioSureTM kits were then demonstrated and participants commented on procedure, design and instructions. FGDs were recorded and transcribed verbatim, then analysed thematically.

Results: Convenience and confidentiality of HIVST was seen to facilitate testing. Issues with domestic privacy problematised confidentiality. HIVST kits and instructions were thought to be unnecessarily complicated, and did not cater to the required range of abilities. The window period was the most important element of an HIVST, with strong preference for 4th generation testing. Kits which used a blood sample were more popular than those using saliva due to higher perceived accuracy although phobia of needles and/or blood meant some would only access HIVST if a saliva sample option was available. A range of access options was important to maintain convenience and privacy. HIVST kits were assumed to increase frequency of testing, with concerns related to the dislocation of HIVST from sexual health care pathways and services.

Discussion: Utility of HIVST arises from relatively high levels of confidentiality and convenience. Until 4th generation assays are available HIVST will be seen as supplementary in a UK context.

Keywords: HIV self-testing; HIV self-sampling; gay men, men who have sex with men; Focus group discussion(s).

Copyright: © 2016 Witzel et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Available FREE online