Currently accepted at: Journal of Medical Internet Research
Date Submitted: Mar 20, 2018
Date Accepted: Sep 14, 2018
Date Submitted to PubMed: Nov 22, 2018
(closed for review but you can still tweet)
An Unsupervised Smart Appâ€“Optimized HIV Self-Testing Program in Montreal, Canada: Cross-Sectional Study
Although HIV self-testing strategies have been recommended by the World Health Organization, HIV self-tests are not yet approved in Canada. Currently approved HIV self-tests offer toll-free lines that are insufficient for initiating expedited linkages to counseling and care, accurate interpretation, and support during HIV self-testing. We developed an innovative, multilingual software app called HIVSmart! to plug these gaps.
This study aimed to test our app-optimized oral HIV self-testing strategy for feasibility in men who have sex with men (MSM) who presented to test at a large sexual health clinic (Clinique MÃ©dicale Lâ€™Actuel) in Montreal.
Between July 2016 and February 2017, we offered a strategy consisting of the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test (an investigational device) and a tablet installed with the HIVSmart! app to study participants, who presented at a private office in the clinic, mimicking an unsupervised home environment. We evaluated the strategy for its feasibility, acceptability, and preference. Using the HIVSmart! app, participants were guided through the self-testing process. We determined feasibility with a metric defined as the completion rate, which consisted of the following 3 steps: (1) self-test conduct; (2) self-test interpretation; and (3) linkages to care. Participants independently performed, interpreted, recorded their self-test and result, engaged in pre- and posttest counseling, and sought linkages to care. Laboratory tests (p24, Western Blot, and RNA), as per country algorithms, were expedited, and linkages based on the rapid test status were arranged.
Mean age of the 451 participants enrolled was 34 (range, 18-73) years. Of all participants, 97.1% (438/451) completed and submitted the survey through the HIVSmart! app. In total, 84.7% (371/438) of the participants were well educated (beyond high school) and 52.5% (230/438) had been tested within the past 6 months. Of the 451, 11.5% (52/451) were on pre-exposure prophylaxis. Feasibility (completion rate), an average proportion of the 3 steps, was computed to be 96.6% (419/451). The acceptability of the strategy was high at 98.5% (451/458). A majority of the participants (448/451, 99.3%) were found to be self-tested and lab-confirmed negative and were counseled after self- and rapid tests. In total, 0.7% (3/451) of the participants who self-tested positive and were lab-confirmed positive were linked to a physician within the same day. Furthermore, 98.8% (417/422) of the participants found the app to be useful and 94.0% (424/451) were willing to recommend it to a friend or partner.
The HIVSmart! app-optimized strategy was feasible, accepted, and preferred by an educated, urban MSM population of Montreal. With the app, participants were able to perform, interpret, store results, and get rapidly linked to care. The HIVSmart!-optimized, self-testing strategy could be adapted and contextualized to many at-risk populations within Canada and worldwide, thereby maximizing its public health impact.