Acceptability of rapid HIV home testing among gay men in Buenos Aires, Argentina
I. Balan1, A. Carballo-Dieguez1, R. Marone2, M.A. Pando3, V. Barreda4, M. Avila3
1Columbia University and New York State Psych. Institute, HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, New York, United States, 2Nexo Asociación Civil, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 3CNRS, Facultad de Medicina, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 4Ministerio de Salud, Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Background: As in most Latin American countries, the use of rapid HIV testing in Argentina is severely limited, and the possibility of rapid home testing is not currently being considered. The purpose of this study is to assess the acceptability of rapid HIV home testing among gay and other men who have sex with men (G&MSM) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Methods: Seventy-three G&MSM participated in eight focus groups, which were stratified by age, socioeconomic status, and serostatus. During the focus groups, participants were asked about perceived advantages and disadvantages of rapid HIV home testing. Responses were transcribed and coded using NVivo qualitative analysis software and were then thematically analyzed.
Results: Participants perceived numerous advantages to rapid HIV home testing, mostly centering on greater privacy and convenience. Many considered home testing as a way to overcome fears of HIV-related stigmatization and being perceived as gay, which participants believed kept many G&MSM from getting tested. Some participants suggested that broadly available rapid home tests would demystify and de-stigmatize HIV testing. However, participants expressed significant concerns about impulsive suicidal behavior if someone got a positive result at home, alone. As such, many participants preferred that rapid testing be conducted at organizations where those who tested positive could receive support and more easily be linked to medical care.
Conclusions: While conditions for rapid home HIV testing may not be currently present in Argentina, rapid testing conducted by trained personnel in designated testing sites appears broadly acceptable among G&MSM. The availability of rapid testing in organizations providing services to stigmatized groups at high risk of HIV infection, such as G&MSM, sex workers, and injecting drug users could have a significant impact on HIV prevention and treatment efforts.