March 7, 2017
Only 20 telephone calls were made to the study's support phone line. The vast majority (90%) of these calls were requests for more test kits. Participants did not report any adverse effects as a result of using the test kits.
Researchers in New York City reviewed the findings from the Australian study and made several relevant comments on themes evoked by the study.
The New York City researchers noticed that the Australian study did not find any social harms associated with the test kits. However, they cautioned that implementation of HIV testing strategies that in part rely on home-use test kits "must clearly address the potential for social harms, particularly those related to gender and sexuality oppression."
The New York City researchers made the following statement:
"Ensuring access to regulated and approved self-tests should be a priority for country-level HIV prevention programmes. Yet, because most research has provided free self-tests, the effect of the cost of self-tests on consistent testing is not well understood."
They noted that the cost of the self-test in the U.S. is between US$40 and $60 (between CAN$53 and $80). According to researchers in France, the cost of self-tests is generally between €20 and €40 (this is in the same price range as the cost of the tests in the U.S.).
The New York City researchers added:
"To avoid possible cost barriers, health authorities might need to provide free HIV self-tests to achieve the increased testing frequency [seen in the Australian study]."
The Australian researchers found that home-use HIV-test kits were popular among gay and bisexual men in the study as testing rates increased. Thus, perhaps for certain populations, particularly gay and bisexual men in high-income countries, subsidized HIV self-test kits could be part of a strategy to reduce barriers to HIV testing.
The researchers also found that there was no decrease in participants' use of clinic-based HIV testing during the study. This is an important point because researchers in Seattle have produced computer simulations suggesting that the availability of self-testing could potentially lead to more HIV infections because patients would forgo clinic-based testing and rely on home tests, which are not reliable for detecting recent infections (infections that have occurred within three months).
HIV home-based testing: Potential benefits and ongoing concerns -- Prevention in Focus
HIV testing technologies -- fact sheet
The HIV testing process -- fact sheet
HIV, ART and Survival
What reduces survival 10 years after starting ART in North America and Europe? -- TreatmentUpdate 217
Longer life expectancy for HIV-positive people in North America -- TreatmentUpdate 200
Exploring factors linked to longer survival among ART users -- TreatmentUpdate 200
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