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HAUS: Feasibility and acceptability of self-sampling kits to increase the uptake of HIV testing among black Africans in the United Kingdom

Duration: June 2014 - March 2016

Background: In the UK black African people account for almost one third of the 96,000 people estimated to have HIV and they are more likely than non others to be diagnosed long after they became infected. Testing more often would help to reduce the number of people who have HIV without knowing it, and this means we need to find new, more convenient ways of getting tested. This study will examine if distributing HIV self-sampling kits (HIV SSK) in health care and community services used by Black African people living in London and Glasgow will increase HIV diagnoses.

What is self-sampling? Self-collected specimens can be used reliably to test for HIV, and there are many groups who find it a good idea to take a sample themselves and send it off to get the results confidentially. With an HIV self-sampling kit, an individual takes a very small sample of their blood (usually by pricking their finger), and then they use the materials provided in the kit to send that sample directly to a laboratory. They are then contacted directly with the result. The benefits of using these kits are that they do not require people to attend HIV or STI services.

Why are we doing this study? We want to find out if it is appropriate to make HIV self-ampling kits available to Black African people in the UK through a range locations, and if so, how best to go about doing it. We also want to find out how people might feel having their HIV results communicated to them in this way, and how those working in community locations might feel about distributing the kits. As a starting point, this study is testing the idea in two cities with different health systems and different proportions of Black African people in their population: London and Glasgow. If successful, this could lead to provision of self-sampling kits in other part of the UK.

What is planned? In the first part of the study, we have consulted with relevant professionals and with African people in London and Glasgow to find out their feelings about the kits, and about different ways of distributing them. In the second part of the study, we will be distributing HIV self-sampling kits via community-based organisations and GP surgeries in Glasgow and South London and tracking how the kits are used, how easy it is to distribute them, and we will also find out from those who use the kits what they thought about the entire process.

Sigma Research has partnered in the HAUS project with University College London (UCL) and Glasgow Caledonian University to undertake a study commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

For a more detailed description of the study see the published Protocol. If you want to find out more about the progress of the study visit the HAUS website or follow @HAUS_study on @HAUS_study on Twitter

Key contact for Sigma: Catherine Dodds