Effect of availability of HIV self-testing on HIV testing frequency in gay and bisexual men at high risk of infection (FORTH): a waiting-list randomised controlled trial

Jamil, Muhammad S., Prestage, Garrett, Fairley, Christopher K., Grulich, Andrew E., Smith, Kristy S., Chen, Marcus, Holt, Martin, McNulty, Anna M., Bavinton, Benjamin R., Conway, Damian P., Wand, Handan, Keen, Phillip, Bradley, Jack, Kolstee, Johann, Batrouney, Colin, Russell, Darren, Law, Matthew, Kaldor, John M., and Guy, Rebecca J. (2017) Effect of availability of HIV self-testing on HIV testing frequency in gay and bisexual men at high risk of infection (FORTH): a waiting-list randomised controlled trial. The Lancet HIV, 4 (6). e241-e250.

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Abstract

Background: Frequent testing of individuals at high risk of HIV is central to current prevention strategies. We aimed to determine if HIV self-testing would increase frequency of testing in high-risk gay and bisexual men, with a particular focus on men who delayed testing or had never been tested before.

Methods: In this randomised trial, HIV-negative high-risk gay and bisexual men who reported condomless anal intercourse or more than five male sexual partners in the past 3 months were recruited at three clinical and two community-based sites in Australia. Enrolled participants were randomly assigned (1:1) to the intervention (free HIV self-testing plus facility-based testing) or standard care (facility-based testing only). Participants completed a brief online questionnaire every 3 months, which collected the number of self-tests used and the number and location of facility-based tests, and HIV testing was subsequently sourced from clinical records. The primary outcome of number of HIV tests over 12 months was assessed overall and in two strata: recent (last test ≤2 years ago) and non-recent ( > 2 years ago or never tested) testers. A statistician who was masked to group allocation analysed the data; analyses included all participants who completed at least one follow-up questionnaire. After the 12 month follow-up, men in the standard care group were offered free self-testing kits for a year. This trial is registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry, number ACTRN12613001236785.

Findings: Between Dec 1, 2013, and Feb 5, 2015, 182 men were randomly assigned to self-testing, and 180 to standard care. The analysis population included 178 (98%) men in the self-testing group (174 person-years) and 165 (92%) in the standard care group (162 person-years). Overall, men in the self-testing group had 701 HIV tests (410 self-tests; mean 4·0 tests per year), and men in the standard care group had 313 HIV tests (mean 1·9 tests per year); rate ratio (RR) 2·08 (95% CI 1·82–2·38; p < 0·0001). Among recent testers, men in the self-testing group had 627 tests (356 self-tests; mean 4·2 per year), and men in the standard care group had 297 tests (mean 2·1 per year); RR 1·99 (1·73–2·29; p < 0·0001). Among non-recent testers, men in the self-testing group had 74 tests (54 self-tests; mean 2·8 per year), and men in the standard care group had 16 tests (mean 0·7 per year); RR 3·95 (2·30–6·78; p < 0·0001). The mean number of facility-based HIV tests per year was similar in the self-testing and standard care groups (mean 1·7 vs 1·9 per year, respectively; RR 0·86, 0·74–1·01; p=0·074). No serious adverse events were reported during follow-up.

Interpretation: HIV self-testing resulted in a two times increase in frequency of testing in gay and bisexual men at high risk of infection, and a nearly four times increase in non-recent testers, compared with standard care, without reducing the frequency of facility-based HIV testing. HIV self-testing should be made more widely available to help increase testing and earlier diagnosis.

Item ID: 53939
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2352-3018
Funders: National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), OraSure Technologies, USA
Projects and Grants: NHMRC grant no. 568971
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2018 02:10
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111708 Health and Community Services @ 50%
11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111712 Health Promotion @ 50%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9202 Health and Support Services > 920205 Health Education and Promotion @ 50%
92 HEALTH > 9205 Specific Population Health (excl. Indigenous Health) > 920505 Mens Health @ 50%
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